A UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, or IGS, poll found that California voters of color, primarily Latinx and Native American individuals, are more likely to report being negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and to support hazard pay for essential workers.
With more than 10,000 respondents, the poll is one of many to investigate the different ways in which the pandemic is impacting populations. According to IGS co-director Cristina Mora, the poll is unique for its focus on Native American voters, a population that polls typically keep statistically obscured.
“There were already inequalities where Latinos and Native Americans were less likely to be in jobs that were stable and gave them medical insurance,” Mora said. “Now these jobs are probably disproportionately affected by the pandemic such that they have lost their insurance.”
Part of the problem, Mora said, is that a large percentage of people of color have jobs as essential workers and cannot work from home.
Nathalie Guillen, co-chair of the campus chapter of Brown Issues, an organization dedicated to developing leaders of color, said the pandemic exacerbated existing problems, which is compounded by the fact that Latinx individuals often live in multi-generational homes.
“If they don’t go to work to pay rent, they’re going to get evicted. They’re not going to be able to afford food and other necessary amenities for their life, they’re going to get their power shut off all these things you know it just starts to snowball,” Guillen said. “You have to move in with your family, now there’s 10 of you in a house. Every action that gets taken results in a higher risk of infection.”
The survey indicated that support for relief measures, including legislation requiring employers to provide hazard pay to frontline essential workers or requiring employers to provide full sick leave, have majority support among all ethnic groups.
However, Mora noted that it is not necessarily the case that the pandemic has changed people’s minds about how to address these issues. Instead, these issues are now at the forefront and, in some cases, have been politically polarized.
In some ways, it is hard to disentangle the impacts of race and class, according to Mora. Those who are at the greatest risk are working-class individuals in essential positions, and in the United States, those people tend to be people of color.
“Most of us are low income, most of us are first gen, most of us are immigrants or children of immigrants,” Guillen said.
Intra-class disparities also exist, according to Mora. White individuals are more likely to be part of networks of wealth than Latinx individuals, who are more likely to live in intergenerational households.
Guillen noted that undocumented communities experience a lack of access to information, and as vaccination programs ramp up, she questioned how people fearing deportation will access vaccines.
“If you have less education, less stable jobs, less wealth and medical insurance is connected to your job, then you can see how a health emergency has been a financial emergency for people,” Mora said.
Since the poll was conducted through email and the fact that rates of internet access are lower for less advantaged populations, the results of the poll are probably more conservative than the reality, according to Mora.