For months now, media outlets and pundits in both political parties have been closely analyzing every mention of immigration or reference to Latinos by either President Barack Obama or former Governor Mitt Romney for signs that the Latino vote is swaying in one or the other’ direction in the run up to November Presidential Election.
But while both parties talk up the importance of winning the Latino vote, what they are really talking about is getting just enough Latino votes to not lose the election.
That reality was made clearer this week in a newly released report that shows spending on Spanish-language advertising aimed at the 14 million Hispanics registered to vote, even in those “up for grab states” with the “most electorally-significant Hispanic populations,” is still just a small fraction of election advertising spending overall.
Spending has jumped in recent days, but of the nearly $359 million spent on election advertising between April 10, 2012 and Sept. 25, 2012, only 4.57 percent, or just over $16 million was spent on Spanish-language advertisements, according to data released by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) as part of their “Speak Our Language Project.”
The numbers are based on comprehensive data on local television advertising in 10 states— Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Texas and Virginia — compiled by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group Kanto Media’s CMAG.
In California, the state with the third highest percentage of registered Hispanic voters at 19% —New Mexico has 25% and Texas has 23% — only a little over 2% of all political ad dollars was spent on Spanish-language advertisements, according to the report. No political ad dollars were spent on Spanish-language ads in states like Virginia and Illinois.
“Historically, Spanish-language advertising has represented a relatively small share of our political dollars,” said CMAG President Ken Goldstein. “This year, there has been a great deal of speculation that we would see a significant jump in Spanish-language ad spending. That may yet happen, but so far this cycle it appears that ad spending is closer to historical norms than any sort of break out year.”
According to Javier Palomarez, President and CEO of the USHCC, while political advertising spending records are being “shattered,” neither political party is investing a comparable percentage on Spanish-language ads to reach Hispanic voters.
“Political commentators from both sides of the aisle have said repeatedly that 2012 is the ‘year of the Hispanic voter.’ Hispanic voters are poised to play a decisive role in some of the most hotly contested battleground states from Nevada to Florida,” said Palomarez. “…The difference between rhetoric and action is striking and, frankly, troubling,” he said announcing the report.
Democrats, however, are doing a better job then Republicans when it comes to the amount of money they spend on Spanish-Language ads. While Democrats spent $9,833,510, Republicans only spent $3,715,860. In California alone, Democrats spent $249,030 while Republicans only spent $12,740.
But given California’s large land mass and large Hispanic population, Democratic spending can hardly be seen as robust, even in comparison to the Republicans nearly non-existent investment in the pursuit of Hispanic votes.
“There is no ‘right’ level of Spanish-language advertising,” Palomarez said. “But certainly both major parties should be prioritizing Hispanic voters and dedicating real resources to reaching those voters.”
At the presidential level, the Obama campaign and its supporters have only spent nine percent of all ad dollars on Spanish-language media, while the Romney campaign and its supporters have spent four percent of their ad dollars, according to the data from the 10 states analyzed by CMAG.
The numbers are telling, particularly in states like New Mexico where 25 percent of all registered voters are Hispanic: Democrats only spent $139,210 while Republicans did not spend anything on Spanish-language ads in the state during the time period studied.
On Monday, an article by Jordan Fabian on the ABC News – Univision website notes, however, that spending on Spanish-language ads by Romney’s campaign has jumped dramatically in recent days: “Romney’s campaign ran 2,169 Spanish-language ads between mid-April and the end of August, but that number has skyrocketed to 2,855 ads on the air in the first 23 days of September, according to Kantar Media.”
“That’s a big shift,” given that in late August ads in Spanish supporting Obama were outpacing those for Romney by a 12-1 margin, writes Fabian. “So if ad spending is any indication, Romney is making a more concerted push for Latino voters in the final days of the campaign.”
In Nevada this week, as Obama and Romney readied for their first presidential debate, (held Wednesday after press time), both candidates reached out to Latino voters in hopes of gaining support. For Obama, the challenge is to re-energize Latinos who turned out in large numbers to vote for him in 2008, and to once again get them into the voting booth. Several polls have indicated that while Obama still holds the lead amongst Latino voters, their support in this election is not as enthusiastic and there is a danger that many of those voters could opt out of voting this time around.
Romney’s challenge is to not further alienate Latinos who have been critical of many of his positions on immigration, and to turn still undecided Latino voters away from Obama.
While a Latino Decisions – ImpreMedia poll released Monday shows Obama holding a 73-12 percent margin over Romney among Latino registered voters, in battleground states, that lead narrows to 61-33 percent for the president.
Both the GOP and the Democrats still have a long way to go if they hope to convince Latino registered voters that they really do matter beyond the usual campaign rhetoric.
“The truth is that advertising is the single most effective tool candidates and parties have to communicate their message to voters.” said Monica Lozano, CEO of ImpreMedia, owner of Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion. “So when those candidates and parties fail to advertise on Spanish-language media, it has the practical effect of cutting millions of Hispanics out of America’s political conversation.”