Press Release

Survey of Mexican Migrants: Attitudes about Voting in Mexican Elections and Ties to Mexico

  • March 14, 2005

About

A survey of nearly 5,000 Mexican migrants who were interviewed while applying for identity cards at Mexican consulates in the United States has found that an overwhelming majority would vote in Mexican elections scheduled for next year if they had the opportunity. The Mexican Congress is now debating a proposal that would permit absentee voting by Mexicans living outside the country for the first time.

Nearly nine out of ten (87%) respondents said they would vote in the next Mexican elections if they could, and the sentiment carried in near equal measure across every demographic, socio-economic and geographic category except for age. Older respondents were somewhat more likely than younger voters to say they wanted to vote in the elections.

A key issue in the congressional debate in Mexico is whether to permit voting only by migrants who already hold a valid voting credential issued in Mexico or whether to issue credentials in the United States. In the survey sample, 42 percent of the respondents said they had brought their voting credential with them to the United States. Respondents who have arrived in the United States more recently are more likely to have a voting credential with them than those who have been here longer. For example, 64 percent of respondents who have been in the United States for two years or less said they have the credential with them, compared with 29 percent of those who have been in the country for more than 15 years.

The Pew Hispanic Center's Survey of Mexican Migrants provides detailed information on the demographic characteristics, living arrangements, work experiences and attitudes toward immigration of 4,836 Mexican adults who completed a 12-page questionnaire as they were applying for a matrícula consular, an identity document issued by Mexican consulates. Fieldwork was conducted in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Raleigh, NC, and Fresno, CA, from July 12, 2004, to Jan. 28, 2005.

The sampling strategy for the survey was designed to generate the maximum number of observations of Mexicans living in the United States and seeking documentation of their identity at a Mexican consulate. Respondents were not asked directly to specify their immigration status. However, slightly more than half of the respondents (N=2,566) said that they did not have any form of photo ID issued by any government agency in the United States. The share of respondents saying they had no U.S.-issued identity documents was much higher among the more recently arrived--80 percent among those in the country for two years or less and 75 percent for those in the country for five years or less.

This is the second in a series of reports on the survey's findings. The first report examined attitudes towards immigration and major demographic characteristics. Subsequent reports will examine a variety of topics in detail, including the migrants' their employment and economic status, banking and remittances, and gender and family structure. The full dataset of survey responses will be made available to researchers on Sept. 1, 2005, through the Pew Hispanic Center Web site (www.pewhispanic.org).

Major findings in this report include:

  • The prospect of voting in Mexican elections has broad and deep appeal among survey respondents, with 87 percent saying they would vote if they could.
  • The same overwhelming sentiment in favor of voting was expressed across every demographic category and in every location where the survey was conducted. No significant differences emerged by gender, education or the amount of time a respondent had spent in the United States.
  • Older voters were somewhat more likely to say they wanted to exercise the franchise in Mexico, with 90 percent of those over the age of 50 saying they would vote if they could, compared with 84 percent of those 18 to 29 years old. In the survey sample, 42 percent of respondents said they had brought their Mexican voting credentials with them to the United States while 54 percent said they had not.
  • The share of respondents saying they had a credential with them in the United State was highest among the most recently arrived migrants. The share of respondents who had been in the United States for two years or less saying they held a credential was 64 percent, compared with 29 percent of those who had been in the United States 15 years or longer.
  • Several Mexican states, particularly in the south of the country, have patterns of migration that have been established more recently than those in states in the center of the country that have been sending large numbers of migrants north for many decades. This is reflected in the share of respondents who say they have a voting credential with them in the United States. For example, 63 percent of the respondents from Veracruz, a state with a recent history of migration, said they had the credential with them compared with 37 percent of those from Jalisco, a state with a long-established history of migration.
  • A little more than a third (35%) of the respondents said they owned land, housing or a business in Mexico, but the share was much higher among men (43%) than among women (24%).
  • The survey respondents showed a high propensity to send money home to their families in the form of remittances. Nearly eight in ten (78%) said they send money to Mexico, and about half (52%) said they send money once a month or more.
  • More than half of the survey respondents (54%) said they talk with their family in Mexico by phone at least once a week. Even among those who have been in the United States for more than ten years, 46 percent are on the phone to Mexico at least once a week.
  • A substantial share of respondents, even the youngest and those who have arrived most recently, said they have previously visited the United States. About half the respondents ages 18 to 29 and a third who have been in the country for two years or less said they have made prior trips to the United States.