A group of academics on Monday presented a study in which they detail the "robust" impact that stereotypes about Hispanic immigrants have on the integration and lives of those immigrants in the United States.
The study, headed by Jeffrey M. Timberlake, associate professor of sociology at the University of Cincinnati, was presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, which is being held at the Denver Convention Center.
Timberlake and his colleagues interviewed 2,150 registered voters in Ohio and concluded that the way in which U.S. citizens view Latino immigrants is strongly related to their beliefs about the possible negative impact of immigration.
The study entitled "Who 'They' Are Matters" found that those in Ohio do not connect their point of view about immigration in general with their beliefs about the characteristics of immigrants from Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
In the case of Latin Americans, however, the effects of stereotypes are "large and robust, especially regarding attitudes about the impact of immigration on unemployment, school quality, and crime."
"Anyone who follows the public discourse on the current politics of immigration cannot escape noticing the number of times people preface their opinions -- both for and against many different versions of immigration reform -- with the claim to feel positively about immigration in principle, or with a bow to our 'nation of immigrants' history," the researchers said.
"However, as our findings show, reaction to immigration is often filtered through attitudes toward the particular characteristics they believe immigrant groups hold," Timberlake and his collaborators added.
The researchers used data compiled between November 2007 and May 2008 by the University of Cincinnati's Institute for Policy Research.
The authors said that Ohio is an "ideal" place to study the attitudes of citizens toward immigrants since residents in most parts of the state "have little direct contact with recent immigrants" and are thus "relatively unaffected by actual immigration levels."
Census data show that only 3.8 percent of Ohio's 11.5 million residents are immigrants, while foreign-born people make up 12.7 percent of the national population of 311 million.
In Ohio, 3.2 percent of the residents are Hispanics, compared with 16.7 percent on the national level.
The researchers asked the interviewees to attribute characteristics to four groups of immigrants: Latin Americans, Asians, Europeans and Middle Easterners.
Each person polled had to evaluate a group of immigrants and say whether they thought the members of that group were rich or poor, intelligent or unintelligent, self-sufficient or dependent on the government, ready to integrate themselves into U.S. society or not and did or did not have violent attitudes.
The study concluded that people who assume that Latino immigrants have a negative impact on the labor and educational situation or on public safety also attribute negative characteristics to this group.
On the other hand, no similar correlation was found with respect to the attitudes toward immigrants coming from elsewhere.