While Latinos are concerned about immigration, jobs and education rank higher among their concerns, according to a study of Hispanic Americans conducted by Barna Group in partnership with American Bible Society, National Hispanic Leadership Conference and OneHope.
Like most Americans, Latinos are concerned about the current high rate of unemployment. But what distinguishes Latinos from most Americans is that they also rank education as their main concern along with jobs, according to David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, in a Tuesday conference call with reporters.
When asked to identify the "single most pressing challenge" for the Latino community, 27 percent answered employment, 24 percent said education, and 22 percent said the break-up of Latino families (which is related to immigration for many Latinos).
Obama won re-election last week, in part, due to the strong turnout and support of Latinos. As a result, Latinos have been prominent in Republican debates about why they lost and what to do about it.
Conservative Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer recently argued, for instance, that Republicans need only change their position on immigration to win the Latino vote in 2016.
Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat argued, on the other hand, that Republicans need an agenda that speaks to the concerns of middle-class Americans, including education.
Barna Group's study suggests that Douthat may be more correct in that debate, if Republicans want to include more Latinos in their coalition.
Latinos "see government more as an ally than a foe," Douthat wrote. "They can be wooed, gradually, if Republicans address their aspirations and anxieties, but they aren't going to be claimed in one legislative pander."
Barna Group also found that Latinos have higher levels of optimism and life satisfaction than most Americans, which may explain why they were not persuaded by the Republican message that the country has gotten worse under President Barack Obama.
Latinos "don't have as much angst" as most Americans, Kinnaman explained.
Another theme that emerged from the study is that "Hispanics take a great deal of pride in their personal and cultural contributions to America," Kinnaman said.
When asked "do you think of yourself as Hispanic or Latino, Christian or Catholic, Or American?" a majority, 54 percent, said they identified most with the cultural term, Hispanic or Latino.
When asked what they contribute to society, "family values" and "work ethic" were most often cited. Plus, 85 percent say they find personal meaning and fulfillment in their jobs.
As the United States struggles to recover from the Great Recession, Kinnaman believes this could be one of the most important contributions of Latino culture.
"The Hispanic community can show the way toward a deeper, more meaningful view of jobs, of employment, of work. I think there's some real story of hope related to that in the Hispanic community today," Kinnaman said.
Barna Group interviewed 2,046 Hispanic adults living in the United States in August and September. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points for the full sample.