Spanish-speaking voters feel ignored, and negative ads are making things worse
A Spanish-language Obama campaign ad promotes the Affordable Care Act.
By EMILY DERUY
Swing-state voters are more likely to have seen campaign ads, according to the most recent USA Today/Gallup Swing States Poll. And while most of those ads have been negative and generally reinforce what voters were already thinking; for Latino voters that may not be the case.
According to Dr. Matt A. Barreto, a political science professor at the University of Washington, Seattle and a founder of the Latino research and polling group Latino Decisions, Spanish-speaking voters feel ignored, and the negative ads are making things worse.
“Generally, in focusing on outreach to Spanish-dominant voters, it makes a lot more sense to be positive because polling data has shown that there’s an enthusiasm gap for Latinos, that the system is not responsive,” said Barreto. “Both parties are not engaging on the issues, so negative ads only reinforce that sentiment, that system is not responsive, whereas positive ads give something to vote for.”
The poll surveyed voters in the dozen states most likely to decide the election —Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin — between June 22-29.
In those 12 swing states, Obama leads Romney 47 to 45 percent. He leads Romney 48 to 44 percent in non-swing states.
Of the 12 swing states, over half — Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia — have at least a half-million Hispanic residents, according to the most recent census.
While 82 percent of swing-state voters are likely to have seen a candidate in a television ad, only 62 percent of non-swing state voters have seen a televised campaign ad.
Not only are swing-state voters seeing a lot of ads, they are seeing a lot of negative ads. Sixty-nine percent of swing-state voters have seen a negative television ad toward Barack Obama. That number is 63 percent when you look at ads negative toward presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
This has not been the case for Spanish-speaking voters.
According to Politico, the Obama campaign has spent more than $2 million on Spanish-language ads since mid-April, in addition to the $4 million the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) have pledged to spend this summer. Romney has only spent $110,000 on Spanish-language ads.
The Obama Spanish-language ads have, largely, been positive. They’ve talked about healthcare and what the passage of the Affordable Care Act means for Latinos. Obama’s English-language ads have avoided healthcare, and been more negative.
An Obama campaign volunteer touts the Affordable Care Act as a benefit for Latino voters.
While some of this makes sense—according to a January Univision News/ABC News/Latino Decisions, 57 percent of Latinos think the health law should be left to stand, while the law has only middling support among the general population—what does it mean for Spanish-speaking, swing-state voters?
“Both campaigns should be doing some contrast, but both should have positive outreach,” Barreto said. “The Romney campaign has not matched the Obama campaign in terms of outreach to Latinos, and the Romney campaign needs to make a substantial investment in Latinos or else they are way behind. And they’re not going to catch up attacking Obama.”
A pro-Romney Spanish-language ad criticizes Obama’s handling of the economy.
Swing-state voters say the ads generally reinforce what they were already thinking about the candidates. Only 8 percent said the ads have changed their views. But of those who have changed their minds, 76 percent now support Obama, while only 16 percent support Romney.
However, Barreto cautions the Obama campaign against feeling overly optimistic. He says it’s not a question of whether or not Hispanic voters will vote for Obama, but whether or not they will turn out at all.
“Obama has not done nearly as much as in 2008, so he’s behind where he was in the past,” according to Barreto. “I think the Obama campaign — in ‘08 they were doing these messages during the primary — was way earlier and they would be making a mistake if they think they have the edge. They need to focus on mobilization in turnout and giving people something to vote for. So the really need, in swing states, to increase outreach and especially positive outreach.”
(Photo: screenshot/YouTube; Videos: YouTube)