When we published our ThinkNow Latinx Report in November 2019, many were shocked by the stunning reality that 98% of Latinos do not identify with the term “Latinx” and prefer to identify as “Hispanic,” leaving only 2% of the burgeoning Hispanic consumer base preferring this ethnic label.
The findings were cited in The Washington Post, New York Times, and The Atlantic. A Medium article published with the results has received 84,000 views and 29,000 reads to date. The volume of engagement illustrates the deep divide among consumers, academia, and other stakeholders regarding the credibility of the term “Latinx.” The study drew both praise and criticism from readers, some of whom didn’t agree with the outcome of the study, so they questioned our methodology.
We decided to do a follow-up study with double the base size -- 1,000 respondents this time -- and added an LGBTQ over sample. Not to prove the naysayers wrong, but to ensure companies and brands, politicians and journalists, had more in-depth insight into how U.S. Latinos prefer to describe their ethnicity.
Despite the larger sample size, we found that “Hispanic” is still preferred by Latinos when describing their ethnicity. Doubling the base size from 500 to 1,000 respondents had little to no impact on the results. “Hispanic” ranks highest among Hispanics, followed by “Latino/Latina” while “Latinx,” on the other hand, ranked last in both of our surveys. “Hispanic” is favored among Latinos who identify as LGBTQ when describing ethnicity, as well.
Another concern raised by our 2019 Latinx study was the representation of LGBTQ respondents, as the term “Latinx” was, in part, coined to address the gendered nature of terms like “Latina/Latino.” To address this concern in methodology, we included an oversample of 11% (114 respondents) who identify as LGBTQ. Furthermore, we added a sample of 360 respondents who are not LGBTQ themselves but know others who are. The research found that “Hispanic” is preferred, while “Latinx” barely registers.
The assumption that college-educated Hispanics or younger Hispanics prefer the term “Latinx” is not supported in the data. “Hispanic” is preferred among college-educated and higher-income Hispanics, as well as Hispanics ages 18-44. Among this demographic, perhaps cultural values are a factor. According to data pulled from ThinkNow ConneKt, 55% of college-educated and higher-income Hispanics rank Family as the most important cultural value. The term “Latinx” implies a neutrality that just isn’t resonating.
Across all cohorts, preference for “Hispanic” rises to the top, and preference for “Latinx” remains consistent, never rising about the 3% mark.
Latinos not only prefer to identify as “Hispanic,” but almost 60% of respondents either dislike the term “Latinx” or find it offensive. But the reality that the Hispanic population overwhelmingly dissociates from the term “Latinx” is just the tip of the iceberg. In order to truly reach and engage Hispanic segments, you need to know the challenges your audience is faced with and the values that drive their decision making.
ThinkNow ConneKt delivers the ability to segment the population by not only demographic attributes like ethnicity, but also by psychographic attributes like cultural values and social issues, enabling unparalleled audience segmentation. Building audience profiles is essential to establishing meaningful connections with consumers, especially now as we navigate a pandemic and prepare for a contentious election season.
As for the term “Latinx,” while the origin is noble and signals a more inclusive mindset, those looking to connect with Hispanics must first get to know them. When they do, they will find that while a term may be trending, it may not be translating into more sales in the pipeline or more votes in the ballot box.