Introduction Chapter: Hispanic Immigrants &amp Social Networks

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[. . .] What this means for us in 2011 is that a large portion of our voting population struggles with an inherent distrust of the U.S. government, due in part to their experiences with the immigration process, and in second part to their experiences with the governmental bodies in their localized communities.

According to Robinson and Jackson (2001), and supported by Glanville and Paxton (2007), the development of political trust in government is based on people's experiences with government on a local level. From these experiences, people form a 'standard estimate' of the trustworthiness of government that is difficult to alter without altering a person's experiences (Robinson and Jackson, 2001).

Above and beyond political trust, people form an estimate of trustworthiness particular groups based on their interactions with persons belonging to this group. For example, if a person is treated poorly by a particular race, class, social or religious group, they will inevitably form an inherent distrust of this group as a whole. On the other hand, if a person is treated positively by a particular group, they are more likely to trust this group. In terms of forming a generalized inclination to trust, people typically draw from the average of trustworthiness they have experienced over the course of time.

It is for this reason that social interaction -- as opposed to self-induced isolation due to depression or a language barrier -- is so important in terms of developing political trust. As the inclination to trust the U.S. government is based on one's experiences with that government at a local level, it is imperative that immigrants have the opportunity to form positive impressions of local social and governmental bodies, such as social assistance programs, financial and housing assistance programs, state-run healthcare and government health insurance programs. It is also for this reason that language acquisition is important, as studies support the claim that immigrants who choose to learn English have increased access to social and governmental assistance programs.

In addition to the governmental bodies of a community, it is imperative that immigrants form a positive impression of that community's people, as democracy is based on a trust in the 'collective will of the people' (Paxton, 2002). If an immigrant suspects that the will of the people of a community -- or a country -- differs from her own, she isn't likely to trust that the democratic elections process will ever truly represent her will. In order for an immigrant to form trust in a community's people, she must come to identify with these people as sharing her social values and political beliefs, in a sort of flip-definition of acculturation. While it might actually be the immigrant who is coming to adopt the social values and political beliefs of the community she lives in, it is nonetheless important for her to trust in the people's will to uphold these values and beliefs.

Sociological theorists have broken this trust down into three sub-categories: trust in the strength of the federal power to govern; trust in the people's acceptance of democratic governance; and trust in the ability of the government to support successful economic development. In terms of trust as built on the recognition of a shared identity, sociologists use models such as Gemeinshaft, civil society, and civic culture to illustrate the connection of identity with trust. The term Geneinshaft refers to an association of people who identify strongly as a group, and are governed by commonly held political beliefs and social attitudes. Similarly, civil society is a group whose actions are based on the shared interests, values and beliefs of the group, while civic culture refers to a civil society in which the group has be orientated to share a set of beliefs and values.

Despite the apparent common sense of the identity=trust theory, it is important to note that little research supports the claim of the reciprocal nature of identity and trust. One limitation of past studies is their failure to measure the influence of exposure to society/culture in a general sense -- general acculturation -- at the same time as they have measured the influence of exposure to a particular government's laws -- institutional context. It is also worth noting that many acculturation theorists claim that a large part of our impressions of government are formed second-hand through media representations of that government, which in turn inform our everyday discussions of government. On the other hand, institutional context theorists argue it is our first hand experiences with public outreach programs and state and community legislation that forms our opinion of government on a federal level, however the question of whether or not the enhancement of social ties to community enhances trust in a community -- or rather, if enhanced trust results in more social ties -- remains open-ended. In either case, contributing variables such country of origin, the existence or non-existence of family ties, gender, and an immigrant's experience of the immigration process have yet to be accounted for in a truly comprehensive study of political trust origins.

For example, while the Latino National Political Survey (LNPS) conducted in 1990 failed to measure the influence of family and civic ties on the development of trust, the Latino National Survey (LNS), conducted in 2006, included several cross-disciplinary variables -- to include family and civic ties -- however it stopped short of exploring the types of information communicated through these ties, to include information pertaining to the cultural and political climate.

Nonetheless, the cross-disciplinary nature of the LNS paved the way for further research into the influence of family and civic ties on the development of trust specific to Hispanic immigrants to the U.S. What is needed now, and what I will endeavor to present in the following pages, is a study that incorporates the findings of the LNS into a comprehensive look at the acculturation and institutional context variables that support or discourage political trust development.

The following dissertation examines the acculturation process of Hispanic-Americans in three parts: language acquisition, the potential for the development of depression, and the factors contributing to the development of political trust. As discussed in this introduction, each component of the process of acculturation informs the other, however the specific ways in which this information is passed has yet to be addressed. For example, while previous studies support the claim that language acquisition results in a more positive experience in social, educational and professional sectors, the incentives for learning language -- in addition to the sources of resistance to language -- remain unclear, or at the least incomprehensive. It is the purpose of this dissertation to present a comprehensive study of acculturation in the institution context of Mexico and the U.S., accounting for several cross-disciplinary factors, to include distance, gender, age, family and civic ties as influencing the three… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cite This Introduction Chapter:

APA Format

Hispanic Immigrants &amp Social Networks.  (2011, January 10).  Retrieved July 23, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Hispanic Immigrants &amp Social Networks."  10 January 2011.  Web.  23 July 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Hispanic Immigrants &amp Social Networks."  January 10, 2011.  Accessed July 23, 2019.