For Mexican immigrants, politics is a family affair

Imagine adapting to life in the U.S. after emigrating from Mexico. With so many confusing new processes and systems to navigate, how would you begin to understand something as complex as local and national politics? According to San Francisco State University Associate Professor of Political Science Marcela García-Castañon, who studies political socialization, you’d likely turn to your spouse. In a recent study in the journal New Political Science, García-Castañon shows that spousal relationships often determine how newcomers from Mexico come to understand American politics and develop a sense of community.

García-Castañon says she’s one of only a few academics studying spousal political socialization in immigrants. She notes that most of the research into political socialization focuses on native-born citizens whose values start forming in adolescence. By the time they’re married, their political beliefs are formed. Adult immigrants are a different story, and the limited research on immigrant political behavior doesn’t account for the role that spouses play in shaping political values, García-Castañon said.

“Assuming immigrants are here on an individual basis is an inaccurate portrayal of how citizenship develops,” she said. “If immigrants don’t understand something they’re going to turn to the person they trust the most, which is often their partner or spouse. They’re engaging with their families, and those pathways shape how they see citizenship.”

According to García-Castañon, most studies on political behavior simply focus on whether people are voting or not. That’s too limiting, in her view.

“Immigrants don’t feel like members of the community…

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