Three Facts About Latino Voters That Media Got Wrong In 2015 But Can Improve In 2016

››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

Leading up to the 2016 elections, media should be careful not to perpetuate the same myths about Latino voters that many pushed in 2015, including portraying Latinos as a monolithic voter bloc exclusively interested in immigration or superficially attracted to Hispanic or bilingual candidates regardless of their policies, and suggesting this growing demographic will be a "non-factor" in 2016.

MYTH: Single Issue Syndrome: Latino Voters Are Only Concerned About Immigration

Jorge Ramos: Latinos "Can't See Beyond Immigration." While appearing as a guest on Fox's Hannity, Jorge Ramos joined host Sean Hannity in misrepresenting the Latino vote with the misleading claim that "Latinos honestly can't see beyond immigration":

JORGE RAMOS: Republicans, I think, they've missed a huge opportunity, because when it comes to values, they're close to the Hispanic community, but Latinos honestly can't see beyond immigration. [Fox News, Hannity, 4/15/15]

In 2014 and 2015, Hispanic Guests Were Invited On English-Language Sunday Shows To Discuss Immigration Far More Than Other Policy Issues. The misrepresentation of Latino voters in 2014 extended to English-language Sunday morning political talk shows as well: a Media Matters survey of Sunday showed that from August 31 to December 28, 2014 47 percent of Hispanic guests were invited to comment on immigration, while only 5 percent discussed the economy or jobs, and only 1 percent healthcare. This trend continued in 2015, with 13 percent of Hispanic Sunday show guests participating in discussions about immigration during the first 18 weeks of the year, and none invited on to talk about healthcare:

During the first 18 weeks of 2015, 13 percent of the total 46 Hispanic guests who appeared on English-language Sunday shows participated in a discussion about U.S. immigration policy.

[...]

Despite the fact that high levels of Hispanics in the U.S. are uninsured, no Hispanic guests on the English-language Sunday shows participated in discussions about health care during the 2015 period studied. Only 9 percent talked about the economy, and just 4 percent discussed education. [Media Matters, 7/20/15; Media Matters, 3/4/15]

FACT: The Latino Electorate Is Not A Single-Issue Voting Bloc, And Immigration Policy Is "Not A Deal-Breaker Issue"

The Nevada Sagebrush: Latino Electorate "Should Not Be Pigeonholed As A Single-Issue Constituency." University of Nevada's student newspaper The Nevada Sagebrush accurately pointed out that the media and politicians should not treat immigration as the only election issue motivating the Latino community, which is "diverse as it is large and cannot and should not be pigeonholed as a single-issue constituency":

While immigration is indeed a complex and far-reaching problem that must be addressed, the use of immigration policy as an attempt to pander to Latino voters needs to stop. It is high time politicians recognize that the Latino population is as diverse as it is large, and it cannot and should not be pigeonholed as a single-issue constituency.

[...]

The diversity of people we classify under a broad term makes it difficult, almost impossible, to unify their varied social and political interests into a single platform addressing a single issue. Doing so not only disparages the cultural differences among Latinos but also serves to alienate the 64.4 percent of Latinos the Census Bureau reports are native citizens as of 2012.

Focusing on immigration reform as a way to win over Latino voters also presents a larger problem:-- non-Latino politicians effectively deciding what matters to Latino voters.

[...]

If politicians truly want Latinos to vote for them, they should start by addressing the circumstances that prevent individuals from many groups from going to the polls.

A vast array of political research strongly suggests that the more educated and wealthy an individual is, the more likely they are to be politically engaged. Given this research, it is little surprise that Latinos vote at such low rates.

[...]

The research does not lie; the Latino population is one at a distinct disadvantage in terms of education and income. Ignoring this information and shoving all Latinos into a stereotyped category is not only a disgraceful insult, it is also perpetuating the inequalities that make it more difficult for any group to achieve educational and socioeconomic advancement. [The Nevada Sagebrush, 10/13/15]

Pew Hispanic Center: Immigration "Not A Deal-Breaker Issue" For Majority Latino Electorate. An October 2014 poll conducted by Pew showed that a majority of Latino registered voters do not view immigration as a policy "deal-breaker" when it comes to casting their votes, as opposed to other issues. Pew added that more Hispanic voters "say education (92%), jobs and the economy (91%) and health care (86%) are extremely important or very important to them." [Pew Hispanic, October 2014]

Univision: Hispanic Voters Are Most Concerned About Jobs And The Economy. In a June 2015 poll conducted by Univision and the Latino-focused polling firm Bendixen & Amandi, 36 percent of Latinos cited jobs and the economy as the issue that will most inform their vote for president in 2016. By contrast, only 13 percent said they were most concerned about immigration. [Univision, August 2015]

Voto Latino's Maria Teresa Kumar: Millennial Latinos Are "Much More Drawn To Issues Than To Candidates," And Millennial Latinas Are Most Motivated To Vote By Reproductive Rights And The Wage Gap. Voto Latino CEO Maria Teresa Kumar explained how "millennial Latinos" -- a "major chunk of potential Latino voters" -- are "much more drawn to issues than to candidates." On the November 6 edition of NPR and Futuro Media Group's Latino USA, Kumar also noted that Latinas specifically tend to be more politically involved than their male peers and that they are driven to the polls by reproductive health rights and the wage gap -- which affects Latinas more than any other ethnic group in America:

MARIA HINOJOSA: If there's another voting demographic talked about as much as Latinos, it's millennials. Of course, these two demographics overlap. A major chunk of potential Latino voters are millennials. But a lot of them aren't getting to the polls. Two of our millennial producers, Fernanda Echavarri and Antonia Cereijido, got together in our studio to talk about what Latino millennial voters care about and why they're not voting more.

[...]

MARIA TERESA KUMAR: If you look at the recent studies, millennial Latinos are much more drawn to issues than to candidates. And I think it's because they are more skeptical of the system, they're learning the system.

FERNANDA ECHAVARRI: So, what did María Teresa tell you were some of those issues that Latino millennials care so much about?

ANTONIA CEREIJIDO: There is one issue that makes Latinas in particular go out to the polls.

KUMAR: They are more likely to register and vote if, at the local level, there is a woman's right to choose on the ballot.

ECHAVARRI: Interesting! [NPR, Latino USA, 11/6/15]

MYTH: Latino Voters Favor Presidential Candidates With Hispanic Cultural Heritage

Conservative Media Personalities Scrambled To Anoint Jeb Bush And Ted Cruz "Most Hispanic." Latino media personalities repeatedly praised Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz for being "Hispanic candidate[s]" citing their bicultural backgrounds:

In a New York Post op-ed, the Heritage Foundation's Mike Gonzalez defended Cruz from detractors who claimed Ted Cruz "does not speak for Hispanics," arguing that Cruz's family story and upbringing speak to his immigrant background. But during a guest appearance on Univision's Al Punto con Jorge Ramos, Miami Herald columnist Helen Aguirre defined Jeb Bush as "much more Hispanic" than Cruz, "in way of thinking and culture" (her remarks have been translated from Spanish).

On the April 7 edition of CNN's New Day, CNN contributor and conservative strategist Ana Navarro suggested that Bush may have some "Hispanic identity," arguing that he could beat many Democrats in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus if they were tested on "Spanish grammar, and reading, and comprehension, and Latin American history, and culture." [Media Matters, 4/8/15]

Hispanic Media Touted Jeb Bush As A "Hispanic Candidate" By Virtue Of His Family's Biculturalism. Hispanic media, including Univision, MundoFox, and El País, overemphasized the bicultural aspects of Jeb Bush's biography, touting his bilingualism or marriage to a Latina an "advantage" to win the Latino vote:

For instance, Jorge Ramos, host of Univision's Al Punto, helped feed the narrative of Bush as a "Hispanic candidate" (Spanish-language video clip) during a January 18 conversation with Carlos Gutierrez, who was commerce secretary under George W. Bush. Throughout the discussion, Ramos left Bush's policy stances unquestioned, relying on Gutierrez's glowing review of Bush's personal leadership qualities. At one point, Ramos suggested that Bush could be grouped with other potential Republican presidential candidates who are Latino.

Other Spanish-language outlets like the newspaper El País have also credited Bush's Mexican wife and children with making him a "Hispanic candidate," calling these personal factors an "advantage" to win the Latino vote. Briefly glossing over his "moderate" foreign policy stances -- a popular trope in English-language media -- El País highlighted Bush's Mexican wife yet again to address Bush's claims that he is not like his brother George W. Bush. MundoFox, a Spanish-language cable channel that is partly owned by Fox News' parent company, has celebrated Bush's ability to speak Spanish fluently as well as his Mexican wife to position him as a GOP front-runner several times since Bush's announcement in December. [Media Matters, 3/2/15]

FACT: Latino Electorate More Concerned With Candidates' Policy Positions Than Cultural Heritage

Univision.com's Maribel Hastings: Last Names Don't Necessarily Make "A Candidate Hispanic." On a March 30 Univision.com column, America's Voice advisor Maribel Hastings dismissed the idea that candidates can sway Latino voters by using Spanish phrases, underscoring that biographical aspects like last names "don't make a candidate [Hispanic]." [Univision.com, 3/30/15]

Huffington Post: Spanish "No Guarantee" To Win Latino Support. Huffington Post's Sara Bondioli pointed out that bilingualism isn't enough to win over the Latino electorate. In a May 22 article, pollster Fernand Amandi said that for Latinos, a candidate's positions carry more weight than the language he or she speaks: "Hispanic voters aren't going to be voting for who speaks the best Spanish, they're going to be voting for ... the candidate who offers the best platform":

Sharing your message in Spanish might help build Latino support for your presidential bid -- but it's no guarantee.

[...]

Of the declared 2016 candidates thus far, only Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Ben Carson have extensive Spanish-language versions of their websites.

But even President Barack Obama's re-election campaign -- which Fernand Amandi, principal at the polling and strategy firm Bendixen & Amandi International, recognized as having some of the best overall Latino outreach in the past -- didn't launch a Spanish-language website until late February 2012. Amandi noted that the Obama campaign spent the year leading up to that doing research on how to approach Latinos, but didn't really launch efforts aimed at those voters until the year of the election. Yet, Obama won with 71 percent of the Latino vote, according to exit polls.

"That almost created a new normal when it comes to targeting the Latino vote," Amandi said.

And for most voters, no matter their primary language, a candidate's position on the issues is the most important factor in whom they support.

"Hispanic voters aren't going to be voting for who speaks the best Spanish, they're going to be voting for ... the candidate who offers the best platform," Amandi said.

Immigration, health care, jobs and climate change are among the top concerns for most Latinos, noted Felipe Benitez of voter education group Mi Familia Vota. [Huffington Post, 5/22/15]

WaPo: Hispanic Activists Say "Latino Name Is Not Enough To Get A Latino's Vote." On December 15, The Washington Post highlighted that some Hispanic activists are protesting the policies of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, despite the candidates' Latino heritage. As reported by the Post:

Latino protesters have shown up at Trump rallies since he called Mexican illegal immigrants "rapists" and began talking about deporting the millions of Latinos who lack legal status.

But at the GOP debate Tuesday night, protesters also had Rubio and Cruz in their sights, as part of this effort to say that having a Latino name is not enough to get a Latino's vote.

"People are very concerned that Cruz and Rubio are often thought of as candidates that will attract Hispanic voters when in fact their records are hostile to Latinos," said Frank Sharry, founder and executive director of America's Voice, a pro-immigration group.

Sharry said Rubio is now seen as "a traitor" for switching positions on immigration and that "most Latinos see Cruz as Trump without the overt bigotry." [The Washington Post, 12/15/15]

MYTH: Latino Vote A "Non-Factor" In The 2016 Presidential Election

CNN En Español Contributor Dismissed The Importance Of The Hispanic Vote. On the August 30 edition of CNN en Español's Choque de Opiniones, contributor Jorge Dávila asserted Donald Trump "isn't too concerned with the Hispanic vote," because he wants to win the election with the white vote that has been "forgotten." [CNN en Español, Choque de Opiniones, 8/310/15]

Fox's Kilmeade Criticized Presidential Candidates' Use Of Spanish Language. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade criticized presidential candidate Jeb Bush's use of Spanish-language on the September 3 edition of the Fox News show, saying when you overhear reporters speaking in Spanish you think "What country are we in?":

KILMEADE: I tell you, I agree with Donald Trump because I've been in the locker room before when there is Spanish speaking, especially the soccer locker room and now the baseball locker room, and when the Spanish reporters are talking to the player in Spanish, we sit around and go 'what's going on here? What country are we in?' I think that unless it is a Spanish speaking group of press, I think Donald Trump is 100 percent right. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/3/15]

Rush Limbaugh: Latino Vote A "Non-Factor." On the November 21 edition of his show, host Rush Limbaugh urged the Republican party to ignore the Latino vote, calling it a "non-factor":

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Why in the world is the Republican Party, in the face of yet again another majority opposing the president, why is the Republican Party running around and worried about something as completely a non-factor? [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 11/21/14]

FACT: Impact Of Latino Voters In 2016 Election Is Potentially "Bigger Than Previously Thought"

Latino Decisions: "Latino Threshold To Win In 2016" Is Between 42 And 47 Percent For Republican Presidential Candidates. A July poll from the firm Latino Decisions provided evidence that a Republican Party presidential nominee would need between 42 and 47 percent of the Latino vote in swing states to win the White House:

First, the conventional wisdom often asserted by pundits and in media reports that winning 40 percent of the Latino vote will be sufficient for the Republicans to carry the presidency in 2016 is farcical. The 40 percent threshold assumes that the Bush-Kerry demographics of 2004 are still in effect even though that election was 12 years ago.

[...]

[O]ur model assumes that the Latino electorate will grow at rates observed in prior elections. Yet, as 2014 demonstrates, Latino political participation cannot be taken for granted as many Latinos continue to feel alienated from the political process, particularly in light of the political system's failure to deliver comprehensive immigration reform. Moreover, even in presidential elections, Latino registration and turnout lags behind population share. Mobilizing and enlarging the Latino electorate is particularly acute for Democrats. Indeed, it is because of the overwhelming support of Latino voters that the Democrats are better positioned in many of the swing states needed to cobble together the 270 Electoral College necessary for the presidency. [Latino Decisions, 7/17/15]

NPR's Maria Hinojosa: "Latino Vote Could Be Bigger Than We Thought." On the November 6 episode of NPR and Futuro Media Group's Latino USA, host Maria Hinojosa explained that "the Latino vote could be bigger than we thought, maybe even sooner than we thought" because, as Pew Research Center's Mark Hugo Lopez pointed out, that five million foreign-born Latinos with legal residence in the U.S. who are eligible to become naturalized citizens have not taken that step. According to Lopez:

MARIA HINOJOSA: We've been talking throughout our show about Latino voters. There are 26 million Latinos who could be voting in the next presidential election. Now that's enough to tip the scales one way or another, and the candidates know it. But when we spoke with Mark Hugo Lopez of the Pew Research Center we learned that that number could actually be even higher because of one particular group.

MARK HUGO LOPEZ: There are five million Hispanic adults who are in the country legally -- they are foreign-born, they are immigrants -- but they haven't quite yet become U.S. citizens. There's a lot of effort to get this particular group to citizenship, so in other words, having them apply for and obtain U.S. citizenship, and ultimately, they would then be able to vote. Among Mexican immigrants who are in the country legally, only about 36 percent ultimately take that step to become a U.S. citizen, and that is the lowest naturalization rate of any of the Hispanic origin groups. Many of these immigrants have been in the United States for fifteen, maybe even twenty years, and still haven't quite taken that step. So that's really a potential pool of voters who could be pushed to citizenship and have an impact on Latino voter participation in the upcoming election.

HINOJOSA: That's right. The Latino vote could be bigger than we thought, maybe even sooner than we thought, if they just signed up for citizenship. Which is why it's important that politicians learn how complex a group we really are. [NPR, Latino USA, 11/6/15]

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