Publication Date

Spring 4-13-2018


The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that for every five people in the United States, one of them will speak a foreign language at home. Of those individuals who use a non-English tongue at home, more than three fourths of them still indicate speaking English “well” or “very well.” This multiplicity of languages is rapidly transforming many areas of public life, including the way pollsters measure public opinion in the United States.

If the goal is to sketch accurate and representative portraits of public opinion, then survey respondents must be allowed to interview in their language of choice, which might not necessarily be English. In responding to this emerging reality, however, pollsters have largely overlooked the possibility that language may affect the direction and intensity of the opinions that individuals report. That is, language might shape the very attitudes and viewpoints people express through survey questionnaires.

Document Type



American Politics | Linguistics | Political Science


SMU Tower Center and Latino Center for Leadership and Development