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President's Gulf War Policies Gained Wide Latino Support

March 28, 1991|FRANK SOTOMAYOR

The war against Iraq is history but some facts and figures on Latino opinion and involvement in the Persian Gulf conflict are worth noting for the record:

* Latinos nationwide gave wide support to President Bush for his handling of the conflict.

In three Los Angeles Times Polls, 76% of Latinos approved of Bush's policies while 21% disapproved. The approval rate was not quite as high as among Anglos (81%) but significantly higher than among blacks (55%). A total of 263 Latinos were polled in January and February, before the start of the ground war.

In another Times Poll, conducted after the war, 9 of 10 Latinos said the United States was correct to have sent troops into battle against Iraq.

* A survey for the Univision television network, meanwhile, found that 73% of Latinos approved of Bush's war policies while 18% disapproved.

This poll, taken Feb. 13 and 15 of 525 Latinos, also found some differences among Latinos. The backing for Bush's policies was highest among Cuban-Americans (90%), followed by U.S. residents from Central and South America (85%), Puerto Ricans (79%) and Mexican-Americans (66%).

* The deployment of troops to the Persian Gulf brought questions about the number of Latinos in the war zone. Some community activists had feared that Latinos would suffer disproportionate casualties in a ground war.

There was little question that the Latino community was widely impacted by the war. Two of 10 Latinos responding to the Los Angeles Times Poll reported having a family member in the Persian Gulf. In contrast, 1 of 10 Anglos and 3 of 10 blacks said they had a relative in the war zone in January and February.

Latinos accounted for 4.9% of the military personnel in the Persian Gulf, according to Defense Department figures compiled in mid-December. This compared to 67.7% for Anglos; 23% for blacks, and 4.4% for other minorities.

The percentage of Latinos was highest in the Marine Corps, 7.9%, followed by Navy, 6.0%; Army 4.2% and Air Force 3.1%.

Some community activists complained that the Latino totals were understated. Ruben Treviso, regional chairman of the GI Forum veterans group, said many Latinos do not list their ethnic group when they volunteer for military service.

A Pentagon manpower expert, Manuel Oliverez agreed that a few Latinos might not have been included in the counts, but he said he was confident the Latino figures were accurate.

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