Pandemic and homelessness rank among top issues for L.A. County Latinos, new survey says

Half of respondents said homelessness was a top issue for them.
Half of Latinos in L.A. County said homelessness was a top issue, according to a new survey.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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The COVID-19 pandemic, homelessness and the economy are top of mind for Latinos in Los Angeles County, according to a new survey commissioned by the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles and the California Community Foundation.

The survey of 1,500 county residents— voters and nonvoters— offers a snapshot of a key and often misunderstood demographic as the mayoral race in Los Angeles picks up speed.

Latinos make up about a third of registered voters in both L.A. County and L.A. city.

“Very little is invested in voter registration [and understanding] our community. That’s why this poll is so important to understand the subtleties in our communities,” said Antonia Hernandez, president of the California Community Foundation in a Tuesday webinar.


Latinos in L.A. County are still hurting from the past two years of the pandemic and want government officials to step up, the survey showed.

Almost half of respondents said they had their hours cut or lost a job during the pandemic, and 44% said they wanted the government to continue programs that have offered relief, including eviction protection and stimulus checks.

Many are dealing with precarious finances in a county with a soaring cost of living. Half said they have $500 or less in savings.

But on the whole, Latinos in L.A. County were optimistic. More than 70% said their economic situation has gotten somewhat or a lot better, and 86% expect to see improvement in the next five years.

Generally, Latinos are concerned about crime and racial discrimination but not on board with defunding the police, according to the survey.

The survey found that 80% of Latinos believe anti-Latino racism is a serious problem, with half of respondents saying they have personally experienced discrimination.


Only 22% of respondents said they think police funding should be decreased, with 44% believing it should stay the same and 34% that it should be increased.

Half said homelessness was one of the most important problems facing the Los Angeles area, and 66% of those who are registered voters said they would support increased taxes to fund homeless services and housing.

The survey also highlights some often-overlooked subtleties about the Latino community.

For instance, 54% of respondents identify as Democrat, but only 25% describe themselves as liberal, with the majority considering themselves “moderate.”

Additionally, Latinos are a bicultural and bilingual community. Though there are variations based on age, 39% of respondents consume news in both languages.

In the past, politicians have struggled to capture the attention of Latinos, treating them as a monolith of Democratic voters.

Kevin de León answers questions at the first Los Angeles mayoral debate held at Loyola Marymount University last month.
Kevin de León answers questions at the first Los Angeles mayoral debate held at Loyola Marymount University last month.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Latinos in general are lukewarm about their trust in government officials, placing more faith in teachers and healthcare professionals, the survey found.

Matt Barreto, president of BSP Research, which executed the survey, said politicians should harness the power of educational and healthcare leaders in communicating with the Latino community.

“What we saw during the pandemic was that Latino doctors and nurses have increased salience and trust,” he said. “They are the most trusted source right now. These folks we should be getting involved in lots of areas of civic engagement, because that’s who our community is looking to.”

The survey revealed that Latinos have little communication with elected officials, with 84% saying they haven’t talked with an official either in person or online over the past two years.

The survey showed potential for politicians like Kevin de León — the only major Latino candidate in the L.A. mayor’s race — to make headway.

An overwhelming percentage of respondents prefer to have a Latino representing them in public office, with 46% saying it is “very important” and 36% “somewhat important.”


Hernandez emphasized that’s not the only important factor.

“We want honest elected officials,” she said. “Yes, I would prefer a Latino or Latina, but first of all, I prefer an elected official that’s going to be responsive to the needs of the Latino community.”

A majority of Latinos in the survey said they discuss government issues with friends and family and are highly influenced by both their families and ethnicity in their political views.

“Latino voters are sophisticated voters,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights. “They are paying attention as candidates are making their pitch to be elected. These very broad messages of ‘We’re the good guys, they’re the bad guys, vote for us’ is not respecting Latino diversity.”