POLL: Spanish Spoken Here -- and Two-thirds Don't Mind

Fewer Americans admit prejudice toward Hispanics than toward Arabs.

ByABC News
February 10, 2009, 10:16 PM

Oct. 8, 2007 — -- Spanish speaking in the United States is widespread and accepted by most Americans. But a third who experience this language difference are troubled by it -- and they have distinctly more negative attitudes about immigrants and Hispanics generally.

Just 10 percent of Americans concede any personal prejudice against Hispanics -- far fewer than the number who, in previous polls, have self-reported prejudice on the basis of race, against overweight people, or against Arabs and Muslims.

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Nonetheless, among the nearly eight in 10 who hear others who speak mainly in Spanish, a third say it bothers them.

All told, 78 percent in this ABC News "Good Morning America" poll say they often or sometimes come into contact with people in this country who speak mainly Spanish rather than English -- including 55 percent who encounter it "often."

Being bothered by Spanish isn't affected by how often people hear it, meaning other factors are at play. People bothered by Spanish, instead, are those who are more apt to call for stricter immigration rules and to have negative views on immigration generally, particularly on illegal immigration. (This survey, it should be noted, was done in English.)

Immigration remains a political challenge; reform efforts fell flat last spring and the public remains of two minds on enforcement. On one hand, just two in 10 say the government is doing enough to keep illegal immigrants out of the country; on the other, most, 58 percent, favor a path to citizenship for those here now -- a program giving illegal immigrants the right to legal status if they pay a fine and meet other requirements.

People who are bothered by interactions with Spanish speakers are decidedly more negative about immigration policy. In this group, 92 percent think the government isn't doing enough to keep illegal immigrants out; that drops to 55 percent of those who are not bothered by Spanish speakers. Support for a path to legal status, similarly, is 19 points higher among people who don't mind Spanish than it is among those who do.