Latino Leaders on Latino Leadership

Latino Leaders on Latino Leadership

By Angelo Falcón

The NiLP Report (November 30, 2017)

The Latino opinion leaders were asked about who they thought was the single most important Latinos leaders in the United States to date and how effective in addressing the Trump challenges were the national Latino advocacy organizations. Below are the answers to these questions from a national survey of 322 Latino opinion leaders conducted in November 2017? This online poll, the National Latino Opinion Leaders Survey, conducted by the nonpartisan National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP) provides a unique view on the opinions of the nation’s Latino community leadership not available elsewhere.


Top Latinos Leaders

Most Effective Organizations

Tom Perez and the Democratic Party


Top Latinos Leaders

The Latino opinion leaders were asked, in an open question, to identify who they considered being the single most important Latino leader in the United States today.

For the Mexican opinion leaders, the top picks were:

  1. None (36 percent)
  2. Luis Gutierrez (25 percent)
  3. Sonia Sotomayor (11 percent)
  4. Julian Castro (8 percent)

For the Puerto Rican opinion leaders, the top picks were:

  1. None (36 percent)
  2. Luis Gutierrez (32 percent)
  3. Lin-Manuel Miranda (5 percent)
  4. Nydia Velazquez (5 percent)

For the Other Latino opinion leaders, the top picks were:

  1. None (43 percent)
  2. Luis Gutierrez (20 percent)
  3. Ted Cruz (8 percent)

The two consistent selections as the single most important Latino leader were that there are none, followed by Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who is Puerto Rican. This confirms the fact that Gutierrez has been the most high profile Latino advocate on the immigration issue as well as the crisis in Puerto Rico, issues of importance to all three groups of Latino opinion leaders. It is a bit ironic that two days before the release of this report, Gutierrez made the surpsizing announcement that he would not be standing for reelection to the Congress, with his future plans unknown as of this date.

However, if one believes that there is a need for a top leader to emerge to represent Latino issues; these selections by the Latino opinion leaders are troubling in reflecting a significant leadership vacuum. It reveals the failure of Latino leaders to be sufficiently visible in addressing Latino community issues, given the many challenges posed by the Trump Presidency and a Republican-controlled Congress.

On the other hand, there is the position that such a top national leader or leaders are not necessary for the Latino community and could be, in fact, a bad thing. More important are local leaders. The large percentage of Latino opinion leaders indicating that there were no top leaders reflects this position, as well as suggesting the existence of a leadership vacuum at the national level, especially felt by the Other Latino opinion leaders.

Most Effective Organizations

With the many policy challenges posed by the Trump Administration and Republican-controlled Congress to the Latino community on so many levels, the frontline resistances to these policies are the national Latino advocacy organizations. The Latino opinion leaders were asked to identify which of these organizations have been the most effective in addressing these challenges.

Among the Mexican opinion leaders, those viewed as “very effective” were:

  1. MALDEF (20 percent)
  2. LatinoJustice PRLDEF (11 percent)
  3. NALEO (9 percent)
  4. LULAC (8 percent)
  5. Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (6 percent)
  6. Voto Latino (5 percent)
  7. UnidosUS (4 percent)

Among the Puerto Rican opinion leaders, those viewed as “very effective” were:

  1. LatinoJustice PRLDEF (27 percent)
  2. MALDEF (14 percent)
  3. Voto Latino (13 percent)
  4. Hispanic Federation (9 percent)
  5. LULAC (9 percent)
  6. National Puerto Rican Coalition (8 percent)
  7. NALEO (7 percent)
  8. Hispanic National Bar Association (7 percent)
  9. UnnidosUS (7 percent)
  10. Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (6 percent)
  11. Congressional Hispanic Caucus (6 percent)
  12. National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (5 percent)
  13. National Hispanic Media Coalition (5 percent)

Among the Other Latino opinion leaders, those viewed as “very effective” were:

  1. Voto Latino (14 percent)

2, LatinoJustice PRLDEF (10 percent)

3, Cuban American National Council (6 percent)

4, LULAC (6 percent)

5, NALEO (6 percent)

  1. UnidosUS (6 percent)

The Latino legal defense funds were generally seen as the most effective organizations in addressing the challenges posed by the Trump Administration and Republican Congress. Among the newer organizations, Voto Latino appears as among the most effective for all three groups of Latino opinion leaders. It is also interesting that the Puerto Rican opinion leaders viewed a much larger number of organizations as being most effective than the Mexicans and Other Latinos.

The older more mainline Latino organizations, such as UnidosUS, LULAC and NALEO, are not seen as being as “very effective” by the Latino opinion leaders compared to the legal defense funds and newer groups like Voto Latino. This could be the result of the greater visibility of groups that more effectively use social media, as does Voto Latino, than the older groups.

The table below lists the results for all of the organizations presented to the Latino opinion leaders who they gave them a combined “very” and “somewhat” effective rating.

Tom Perez and the Democratic Party

In past NiLP surveys, the Latino opinion leaders have given Tom Perez poor marks as the first Latino Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). In the current survey we asked the Latino opinion leaders if under Perez DNC Latino outreach has improved given their poor record of doing so in the past. Very small percentages (3 to 4 percent) thought it has improved “a lot.” The Mexican opinion leaders saw the most improvement, with 46 percent seeing some and a lot of improvement, while the Puerto Ricans and Other Latino were divided in their assessment: only 33 percent of the Puerto Ricans and 34 percent of the Other Latinos saw some and a lot of improvement in the DNC outreach to Latinos under Tom Perez.


This survey was conducted on November 16-22, 2017 and includes 322 respondents from throughout the United States Since this is not a scientifically derived sample of community leaders, our results are only suggestive, but we believe they can be useful in putting the issues involved in some context. The pool of these respondents is made up of experienced Latino professionals and academics in all fields. Please note that their views are not generalizable to the entire Latino adult population in the United States but may be to this particular activist/professional stratum.

The National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP) has been trying to track elite Latino opinion on the Trump Administration through our National Latino Opinion Leaders Survey. Previous to the current survey, we conducted one in March, May, and July also focusing on Trump. The purpose is to see if Latino leadership views of this Administration have worsened, improved or stayed the same. This approach is an effort to go beyond the opinion of only specific individuals and organizations to a wider range of leaders from throughout the country.

To our knowledge, no comparable ongoing survey of Latino opinion leaders exists at present. The National Latino Opinion Leaders Survey, therefore, is a unique resource that provides yet another window into the views of this important segment of the national electorate. Because there are no clear parameters for determining the precise demographic mix of Latino opinion leaders, we do not report on the results of this survey for the total respondents but rather report on specific subsets. The main subsets we use consists of the main racial-ethnic groups represented — Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and Other Latinos (which consists of other Central and South Americans).

Angelo Falcón is President of the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP). He can be reached at [email protected].

The NiLP Report on Latino Policy & Politics is an online information service provided by the National Institute for Latino Policy. For further information, visit www.latinopolicy. org. Send comments to [email protected].

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