One Language, Two Meanings: Partisanship and Responses to Spanish

45 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2012 Last revised: 31 Jan 2013

Date Written: January 29, 2013


The growth and dispersion of America's immigrant population exposes increasing numbers of non-Hispanic whites to Spanish. Yet the political impacts of that exposure depend on whether Democrats and Republicans respond in similar ways. To address that question, this paper first presents survey experiments showing that exposure to Spanish increases restrictive immigration attitudes only among Republicans. To confirm the external validity of that result, the manuscript then presents an analysis of California's Proposition 227 indicating that support for ending bilingual education was higher in heavily white, Republican block groups with Spanish-language ballots. No such pattern appears in Democratic block groups. Together, these findings demonstrate that Spanish is a politicized symbol, provoking different responses among whites depending on their partisanship. To the extent that other immigration-related cues produce similar effects, the salience of immigration seems likely to reinforce existing partisan divisions rather than undermining them.

Keywords: immigration, integration, inter-group relations, Spanish, political partisanship, bilingual ballots, survey experiments

JEL Classification: J61

Suggested Citation

Hopkins, Daniel J., One Language, Two Meanings: Partisanship and Responses to Spanish (January 29, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Daniel J. Hopkins (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Stiteler Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States


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