Latinx, Native Americans carry heavier pandemic burden, new poll reports

February 23, 2021
By: Edward Lempinen
migrant workers carry bushels of onions in a field
A new Berkeley IGS Poll found broad support among Californians for proposals to provide workplace and income protections for farmworkers, even those in the state without documentation. (AP photo by David Goldman)

Voters of color in California — especially Latinx and Native American people — face disproportionate risks during the coronavirus pandemic and are far more worried than white voters about job and income loss and access to medical care, according to a new poll by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS).

By almost every measure, the Berkeley IGS Poll found that Latinx voters have far higher levels of insecurity than other Californians about life during COVID-19. Fully half of Latinx voters report serious concern about being able to pay for necessities, compared to just 15% of white poll respondents. Nearly half say that working in dangerous conditions during the pandemic, or being unable to work remotely, is a very serious problem, compared to 16% of white voters.

Latinx voters are also far more worried about losing their jobs and losing health insurance.

“Covid-19 has exacerbated long-standing inequalities within the state,” said IGS co-Director G. Cristina Mora. “Communities of color are suffering disproportionately, both economically and socially, and the amount of fear and reported loss, especially among Latinos, is undeniable.”

The findings underscore that the pandemic “presents one of the greatest racial justice challenges of our time,” Mora said.

[See the full results of the latest Berkeley IGS Poll.]

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a far higher toll among communities of color in California than among white residents. Recent research by the APM Research Lab shows that the Latinx population has had the greatest number of total deaths in the state — more than 17,000 as of Feb. 2. In all, the study found 211 deaths per 100,000 Latinx residents, compared to 61 deaths per 100,000 white Californians. Death rates were also much higher for Pacific Islander, Black and Native American residents.

Last month, the new IGS survey was administered online in English and Spanish to 10,358 registered California voters between Jan. 23 and 29. Because of the large sample size, it was the first major statewide poll to reliably assess opinions among Native Americans.

Compared to the population overall, Native American voters are more likely to report significant worries related to the virus, and majorities in that community report serious concerns in five of the seven areas assessed by the pollsters. They are twice as likely as white voters to be very concerned about losing their health insurance and being able to pay for basic necessities.

While pandemic-related insecurity among Native Americans doesn’t match the experience of Latinx voters, it parallels or exceeds the concerns among voters in Black and Asian-Pacific Islander communities.

For example, 45% of Native American respondents say that reduced work hours or wages are a very serious concern, compared to 54% of Latinx voters. Trailing those groups are 37% of Black voters, 29% of Asian-Pacific Islander voters, and 21% of white voters.

Similarly, Native American voters trail only Latinx voters in their concerns about working under dangerous conditions and not being able to access medical care.

Strong support for hazard pay and farmworker protections

The poll also found that California voters broadly favor protections for essential workers. In all, 77% support legislation requiring employers to provide hazard pay to front-line workers, such as grocery store employees. And large majorities of voters say employers should be required to give farmworkers pandemic protections in their workplaces and full replacement wages for those who get sick with COVID-19.

The state’s voters also say equal pay and sick leave protections should extend to farmworkers who are in the country without documentation.

Strong support for workplace protections, such as hand-washing stations and personal protective equipment, extends across all racial and ethnic categories, according to the poll. But Latinx voters express far stronger support for all sorts of protection from COVID-19.

For example, 88% of Latinx voters say employers should be required to pay full replacement wages to farmworkers who get sick with COVID-19 and stay home from work; among other groups, support ranges from 70 to 76%.

Similarly, Latinx voters are far more likely to support pandemic-related protections for undocumented farmworkers.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.