Latinos might have more incentive to vote due to the immigration climate this year, but presidential campaigns and the media are lagging with strategic messaging, several political analysts say.
And that lag in engagement strategy centers on the Latino youth.
Although the Latino youth vote is still up for grabs, with more than 50,000 U.S. Hispanics turning 18 every month, Federico Subervi, director of the Center for the study of Latino Media and Markets at Texas State University, explained that there’s a cultural disconnect.
“It may be the case for Latino youth to be disconnected because there is very little on a regular stream that connects them to the political process,” Subervi told VOXXI. “Unless they’re connecting to these specific websites that connect politics to Latino youth, they’re going to be disconnected now and in the future.”
Subervi said this would eventually lead to a sense of alienation, unless something emotionally triggers them.
On average, Latino voters are younger than non-Hispanic Whites and Hispanic youth tend to lean more to the Democratic Party. An estimated 75 percent of young Hispanics voted for President Barack Obama in 2008, in contrast to 18 percent who went for John McCain, according to a National Exit Poll.
Voto Latino, a non-partisan get-out-the-vote organization, is also aiming to spur voter turnout among acculturated Latinos through on-the-ground social media marketing tools and ads by attracting appeal with celebrities. The group toured with Mexican rock band Mana this year to register voters at concerts across the U.S.
But despite widespread efforts to reach the Hispanic 18+ voter bloc, Gabriel Sanchez of Latino Decisions emphasized that young Latinos are not the most engaged voters.
“Young voters are generally not directly spoken to during presidential races, Latino and non-Latino alike, and until that changes you can not expect those folks to be socialized to participate at a young age,” Sanchez told VOXXI.
While analysts continue to question the methods that mobilize Latino vote turnout, others are looking at whether the impact Hispanics will have in November will be as big as predicted.
Turnout still dubious.
The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP) recently reported the lowest growth rate for Hispanics in two decades, which is estimated to be at 12.7 million in 2012. SVREP concludes that this represents a modest growth rate of 9.8 percent since 2008.
Latino voter registration dropped 11.6 million from 2008 to 11 million in 2010, according to the study’s findings.
Sean Trende, Senior Elections Analyst of Real Clear Politics, found through his own research that the Latino share of the electorate has fallen flat over the past decade and says that casts doubt on the projected 12 million Latino vote turnout.
“I don’t think it’s impossible, but I wouldn’t put an even money bet on it at all,” Trende told VOXXI.
Trende added that political engagement among second- and third-generation Latinos will eventually be felt in the next decade, considering the wave of new arrivals to the U.S. that surged during the 90s.
Assimilation may also play an evolving role in political engagement, he said, and it’s entirely likely that some Latinos will lean Republican as they move up the social ladder and move away from their parents’ roots. Already, Latino voters who earn more than $100,000 per year have picked Republicans 44 percent of the time over the past decade, which brings them closer to non-Hispanic Whites who give 58 percent of their vote to Republicans, according to research cited from Trende’s book “The Lost Majority.”
Trust in government is also higher among naturalized Latino voters then U.S. born-Latinos, who are more skeptical of the political process. Sanchez told VOXXI that recent polling data indicates there is more enthusiasm to vote this year among U.S.-born Latinos than foreign-born — 43 to 32 percent — when it was much closer in 2008.
Media fails to incentivize Latinos
The argument also arises whether media markets are efficiently motivating first generation and acculturated Latinos to vote.
Sanchez told VOXXI that both campaigns seem to perceive that their mainstream English message will resonate with third- and fourth- generation Latinos and that the English-language media will eventually capture the hearts and minds of these Latino voters.
And even that misses the mark, Subervi explained.
“Where do you go for political news relevant to your community — be Mexican American, Puerto Rican, Cubano,” that have a constant stream of news and information, he asked. The answer is usually Spanish-language media.
Subervi says the problem often arises because there is a lack of relevant news and information for Latinos in English-language channels or venues. The mainstream media covers the Latino vote when a candidate visits a particularly heavily populated Hispanic area, but what’s missing is the meaning of the candidate’s policies.
He said English media markets do not provide consistent news relevant to the Latino community that present Latinos in a positive light. According to his research, less than one percent of TV network news have covered Latinos and two-thirds of what they cover deal exclusively with immigration.
“My guess is there are big gaps and there are many places all over the country where there is very limited, if any, constant flow of relevant incentivizing information,” Subervi told VOXXI.
“What is left is political propaganda of the two parties when there are campaigns and that is too late to get this mobilization in higher numbers.”