FOOD INSECURITY, DEPRESSION, and unemployment are the top three issues impacting Latino residents in Massachusetts during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey conducted by the MassINC Polling Group.
Twenty percent of Latinos are unemployed, a figure higher than the state’s overall highest-in-the-nation rate of 17.4 percent, according to the poll. Over a third say they have gotten food from a food bank.
The poll surveyed 622 Latino residents in Massachusetts from July 3 through 13 and asked questions about the impact of coronavirus, the Census, and voter preferences in presidential race.
About 12 percent of those surveyed reported someone in their household had experienced COVID-19 symptoms, a figure that aligns closely with multiple state reports indicating that Latino and black communities have been disproportionately impacted by the virus.
The cities and towns with the highest concentrations of Latinos include several communities that have been hard hit by coronavirus. Those include Lawrence, where Latinos make up 77 percent of the city population, Chelsea at 66 percent, and Lynn at 36 percent, according to the Boston Indicators Project.
The mental health impacts on Latino residents have also been significant, with 51 percent saying they have felt more sad and depressed than usual in recent months.
“The COVID pandemic has laid bare the tragedy of economic, health and housing disparities and highlighted the crucial work to combat racism still ahead of us,” said Aixa Beauchamp, co-chair of the Latino Legacy Fund, which co-sponsored the poll.
Latinos accounted for 12 percent of the Massachusetts population in 2017, according to a University of Massachusetts Boston study using Census data. The number may be even higher, as many undocumented immigrants from Latin American countries are often not included in Census counts.
The poll also looked at participation in the 2020 federal Census. It found 62 percent of Latino residents have responded so far.
The Census, which takes place every 10 years, determines how many representatives each state gets in Congress and the amounts of federal aid a state is allocated.
“It is extremely important to continue collaborating and investing in collecting-up-to-date data that reflects the state of Latino residents in Massachusetts to inform our advocacy priorities and a policy agenda that supports the advancement of our community,” said Rosario Ubiera-Minaya, executive director of the advocacy group Amplify Latinx.
Younger people, those not registered to vote, and those with lower educational attainment were less likely to say they have already answered the Census questions. There are ongoing concerns about undercounting because the Census Bureau has said it plans to stop field data collection a month early, on September 30.
In the presidential election match-up, Latino registered voters in the state said they prefer Biden to Trump, 59 percent to 16 percent.
Support for Biden is highest among younger voters, where the margin is 69 percent to 15 percent. But turnout analyses suggest these younger voters are the group least likely to vote because of barriers like getting time off, or not knowing where and when to vote.
Latinos traditionally participate in elections less than other demographic groups. Latino residents make up 8 percent of the state’s adult citizen population but were only 5.3 percent of Massachusetts voters in 2016, according to Census figures.
“The state electorate does not look like the population as a whole,” said Steve Koczela, president of The MassINC Polling Group. “If it ever did, election results would look completely different than they do today.”
In addition to the Latino Legacy Fund, the poll was sponsored by Amplify Latinx, The Barr Foundation, Eos Foundation, Greater Boston Latino Network, Boston Impact Initiative, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.