Hispanics in Hiding 2018: Understanding Responses to a Changing Political Climate

Fear and anxiety regarding the Trump administration substantially impacts Hispanic consumer behavior. In follow-up to our 2017 study, this analysis explores the foundations of Hispanic socio-political perceptions and demonstrates their day-to-day effects, including significant changes in shopping channel preferences and spending by industry.


It’s been over a year since we presented Hispanics in Hiding, an in-depth look at Hispanic perceptions of and reactions to the Trump administration. That study found key changes in their consumer behaviors, and our goal now is to see whether these changes have persisted over the past year and a half. 

Areas we explore:

  • What drives continued Hispanic disapproval of President Trump?
  • In what ways are undocumented Hispanics adapting as consumers?
  • How many Hispanics have drastically changed their daily routines, and how so?
  • Are Hispanics shopping more or less at Hispanic specialty stores, and why?

Acculturation Does Not Explain Hispanic Trump Disapproval

While Trump has a net approval of -32% among Hispanics (as compared to -9% for the general population), acculturation does not lead this trend. More significant demographics include national heritage, gender, and household income.

About ⅕ of Hispanics Drastically Changing Routines

A majority of Hispanics do not report any changes in day-to-day behavior. But we estimate 22% of Hispanics are ‘in hiding’. This translates to activities like avoiding traditionally-Hispanic areas or living in fear for themselves and their families.

Being ‘in hiding’ has powerful associations with consumer behaviors. These individuals are:

  • 174% more likely to make fewer shopping trips
  • 161% more likely to increase their savings, and
  • 71% less likely to increase spending when compared to other Hispanics.

Threats Shift Shopping Behaviors

While Hispanic awareness of increased US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activity decreased from 75% in March 2017 to 57% in May 2018, fear of racism impacts where these consumers shop. Hispanic shopping growth is concentrated in big-box, online, and specialty-Hispanic options, where they feel less threatened. Unacculturated Hispanics are especially more likely to shop more at Hispanic-specialty stores. They cite cultural pride, prices, and pickiness as primary reasons.

Spending Substantially Less on Entertainment and Alcohol

For both of these categories, 21% of Hispanics indicated they spent less than in the previous year. Unacculturated Hispanics are especially less likely to spend on alcoholic beverages. Staple purchases have not been as affected, with only 4-6% of Hispanics spending less on foods, non-alcoholic beverages, and personal care. Only 18% of Hispanics did not report spending less in any specific category.

Undocumented Hispanics Become Less Wary as Consumers

Many Hispanics indicate that undocumented individuals actively avoid going to public places, making trips to stores, and eating out at restaurants. These numbers are substantial, but have declined since March 2017. For example, although 36% of unacculturated respondents indicated the undocumented individuals they know avoid eating out at restaurants, this figure is 17 points lower than in the first survey. Across both survey waves, saving more money has been the most common behavior.

Access the Findings

It’s important to note that these trends don’t reflect the shift in public awareness of family separations at the U.S.-Mexican border, which spiked in June 2018. With unstable policies and public opinion, it remains important yet challenging for brands to monitor and adapt to consumer responses.

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