Statewide report shows Latino policy priorities dominated by economics
In Western Colorado, concerns around mental health systems, cost of living and gun violence topped priorities
In its second year, the Colorado Latino Policy Agenda seeks to provide elected officials, community leaders and policymakers with an insight into the makeup, views and priorities of Latinos in Colorado.
“The 2022 Colorado Latino Policy Agenda makes clear that the challenges facing Latinos when it comes to jobs, housing and the economy are severe — and in need of significant action from officials at the local, state and federal levels,” said Alex Sánchez, President and CEO of Voces Unidas de las Montañas and Voces Unidas Action Fund, at a press conference for the new report on Wednesday, Sept. 14.
“With fresh data revealing new priorities for Latinos, this year’s report also allows us to expand on our research base from 2021 as we work with elected officials and community leaders to recommend and explore solutions for the future,” Alex Sánchez added.
The 2022 report was commissioned by the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), COLOR Action Fund, Voces Unidas de las Montañas and Voces Unidas Action Fund.
The survey, conducted by BSP Research, surveyed 1,504 Latino registered voters from across the state. Gabriel Sanchez, who led the poll for BSP Research, said on Wednesday that this made it “the largest survey of its kind in Colorado,” and was designed to give it a small margin of error as well as an opportunity to compare results across four regions in the state.
The results from the survey are broken down by segments including demographics as well as by the Denver, Northeast, Southeast and Western regions of Colorado.
“This is unprecedented research and we have never been able to pull out data by region or by congressional district. Localizing data is critical for the discussions that need to be had at the local and regional level. Our goal is for community members, policymakers, media and others to have relevant polling data that can be used for local action,” Alex Sánchez said Thursday in an interview with the Vail Daily
Additionally, the importance of this data can be seen in some of the data itself. At the press conference, Gabriel Sanchez said that while the report shows high enthusiasm and intention for Latinos to vote in elections, 58% responded that they are not being reported contacted (or mobilized) on political and policy matters in the state.
In Congressional Districts 2 and 3 — which both represent portions of Eagle County — these numbers were even higher with 67% and 69% of participants responding they had not been contacted regarding the election. These were the highest percentages in the state.
With this, Alex Sánchez said on Wednesday that it showed the “need to do more work to ensure that we’re all participating in the democracy,” issuing a call for the political system and candidates in Colorado to “do better.”
“Mainstream polling oftentimes includes Latinos. But in a sample of 500, maybe Latinos represented 30 to 60 people — most from urban areas — in the poll. That isn’t adequate and is not representative of our community and the rural parts of the state,” he added on Thursday. “Our poll is historic; we polled 1,504 Latinos and only about 500 came from Denver, which means that about 1,000 of the voters are rural Latinos.”
One of the main highlights of the 2022 survey is that Latinos in Colorado are continuing to experience economic hardship, Sanchez said at the press conference.
Specifically, economic issues filled four of the top five priorities that respondents across the state reported as the most important issues they wanted Colorado officials to address. These four issues were jobs and the economy, addressing the rising cost of living and inflation, improving wages and income as well as creating affordable and attainable housing. In the Western region, this rising cost of living was reported as the No. 1 issue (compared to jobs and the economy statewide).
(The fifth issue — which ranked fourth statewide and third in the Western region — was addressing gun violence and mass shootings.)
These priorities were reflected as well in the survey’s questions around the matters that would make them more likely to support candidates in future elections.
While economic concerns are a continuation of the concerns expressed by Colorado Latinos in the 2021 Latino Policy Agenda, the situation has a new urgency with 50% of respondents — 44% in the Western region — reporting that their economic situation has gotten worse in the past 12 months.
Mental health concerns
In highlighting differences across regions, one of the areas that Western Colorado Latinos responded differently was the issue of mental health.
“The data suggest that our current mental health care system is not working for all Latinos. Simply funding the existing system without any systemic changes will not solve the problem of our mental health care system being ill-prepared to meet the needs of all Latinos, especially in rural areas where the system has created monopolies under a one-size-fits-all,” Alex Sánchez said Thursday.
Fifty percent of those surveyed in the West region said that while there were some good aspects of the mental health system in Colorado, “fundamental changes are needed to make it work better for the Hispanic/Latino community.”
However, nearly a third of respondents in the West (31%) reported that the system has “too much wrong with it” and needed to be completely rebuilt to better serve the Hispanic/Latino community. This was compared to 23% across the state that reported feeling this way.
“The economic numbers in the 2021 and 2022 data suggest that Latinos are facing unprecedented economic strain, which further impact the health and well-being of families. The fact that 57% of Latinos statewide have less than $1,000 in savings for an emergency speaks to the alarming stress that Latinos are under,” Alex Sánchez said
Lowering health costs was also ranked as a (slightly) higher priority in the western region than in other regions of Colorado. In the western region, 22% of respondents identified this as an important issue, compared to 20% of statewide respondents.
Solving these challenges, Alex Sánchez added, will take more than just funding.
“We do not fix broken systems with just funding. It must include system, practice changes,” he said. “Some of the solutions need to include recruiting new, more culturally-competent providers to the area to expand access and also improve services. We need to do better at attracting and retaining providers of color who better understand the communities being served. We need to attract and retain leaders of mental health systems, at every level, to ensure that people with expertise are helping to change the system.”
One of the things that the policy agenda did differently in its second year was to take this data and create a number of recommended policy actions that the organizations involved in the survey would like to see put in action.
“We included every policy preference that Latinos overwhelmingly support. Each recommendation has a 2-to-1 margin of support,” Alex Sánchez said. “This means Latinos, across the state, independent of region or party, most likely support (these preferences). We hope that these recommendations serve as a roadmap to policymakers.”
There are five main policy areas identified for action in the 2022 report. This includes policy action on housing, environmental and health, and reproductive health as well as proposed action on gun safety and increased taxpayer investment.
On housing, some of the proposed policy actions include limiting the amount landlords can raise the rent on mobile homes (something 88% of respondents showed support for) as well as helping families buy homes near quality schools, places of employment and public transit by building up, not out (71% support from respondents) and by allowing multiple units to be built on a single lot (70% respondent support).
With regard to environmental policy, 80% of those surveyed (87% in Western Colorado) showed support for passing regulations for mobile home parks to provide residents with clean drinking water.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Beatriz Soto, director of protégete for Conservation Colorado, said this and other results showed the urgency and clear need “for action on water quality in our communities.”
Additional recommendations on the environment included steps to transition to a clean energy economy (with 70% reporting support) and expanding rebates on electric vehicles and solar energy (with 69% reporting support).
On health and reproductive health policy, the highest support was shown for expanding basic health care services for those who can’t afford insurance regardless of immigration status (with 78% support), the permanent allowance of access to safe and legal abortions in Colorado (68% support and more).
On gun safety, there was strong reported support for mandating background checks on all firearm sales (85% reported), increasing the age to 21 for purchasing assault rifles (75% support), and adding a 10-day waiting period for purchasing a firearm (75% support). Additionally, 66% of those surveyed supported banning the sale and purchase of assault rifles.
And finally, there are recommendations for increasing taxpayer investment for community programs to get more funding (80% expressed support), K-12 education and higher salaries for school employees (72% support), improved training and regulations for law enforcement officers (67%), expanded access to child care services for low-income families (67%) and more access to reproductive health resources (67%).
To view the 2022 Colorado Latino Policy Agenda or learn more about the effort, visit ColoradoLatinoPolicyAgenda.org.
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