At least three Latinos have been named as possible presidential contenders in 2016 – Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.
Rubio and Cruz have commanded center-stage in debates about President Obama’s health care law and comprehensive immigration reform, and Castro made history last year when he became the first Hispanic to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.
But tell that to Latinos, a majority of whom say they have no real national leader, according to a new national survey of Latino adults by Pew Research Center.
Three-quarters of Latinos said the community lacks a national leader, and about that many cannot name one, the survey said.
At the same time, three-quarters see it as a critical void, saying that having a leader is “extremely” or “very” important so that the community’s concerns can be addressed.
The survey found that this view was more prevalent among foreign-born and Spanish-dominant Hispanics.
The Latinos who figured – albeit barely – on the radar for this population were U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Rubio, a Republican from Florida, who each were cited by 5 percent survey respondents as the most important Hispanic leader in the country.
Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, with 3 percent, and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat with 2 percent, were the only others mentioned.
Pew noted that the survey was conducted “at a time when Latino political leaders and civic organizations have been pressing hard for legislation in Congress to create a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11.7 million immigrants, the vast majority of them Latino, who are living in this country illegally.”
But another part of the survey may offer into a glimpse into why it has been difficult for one Latino to command a national role of leader for the community.
Four in 10 Latinos say that U.S. Latinos of different origins share "a lot" of values, but about that many say they share only "some" values. About 20 percent say they share few or no values. U.S.-born Latinos hold this view more so than those born in other countries.
Marketing executives often have noted the challenge of appealing to pan-Latino audiences because of the many differences among the population.
The survey covered a nationally representative sample of 5,103 Hispanic adults.
In other findings, Salvadorans were the most likely to say they share many values with people in their homeland, whereas Cubans were the least likely to feel that way; 20 percent say they prefer the pan-ethnic label “Hispanic” or “Latino” when describing themselves, but half prefer to use their family origin, such as Mexican, Dominican or Colombian.
About half of the respondents say they see themselves as “a typical American.” In some groups, more than half felt that way. Some 57 percent of Puerto Ricans, 55 percent of Cubans and 53 percent of Dominicans say they think of themselves as a typical American.