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The Modesto Bee
Politicians Spent More This Year On Spanish-Language TV Ads
November 22, 2002
WASHINGTON -- Political candidates spent record amounts on Spanish-language advertising for the recent elections, a new analysis shows.
With Gov. Davis alone spending some $1.7 million on
Spanish-language ads, state and federal candidates nationwide far exceeded past efforts. The targeted campaigning will increase, analysts predict.
"More candidates than ever before aired Spanish-language ads," Johns Hopkins University political scientist Adam Segal said Thursday. "The rapidly growing Hispanic population has spurred more advertising to reach these new voters."
Segal's Hispanic Voter Project identified at least $16 million worth of Spanish-language political advertising on television this year. The money paid for 16,000-plus ads, many airing on the Spanish-language Telemundo or Univision networks.
Compared with the estimated $1 billion spent on all political television ads this year, the Spanish-language spending remains small.
The trend is up, though, with an estimated three times as many candidates running Spanish-language ads compared with past election years. Candidates for congressional and legislative seats in the San Joaquin Valley also aggressively courted the Hispanic vote, though figures were not immediately available for TV spending.
Some ads worked better than others.
Davis, for example, ran an ad featuring Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, endorsing him in Spanish.
Sanchez, who grew up in Anaheim, spoke in an accent that Davis consultant Sergio Bendixen characterized Thursday as essentially passable.
A visually more compelling Spanish-language ad selectively highlighted Davis' biography, showing both his Vietnam service and a United Farm Workers flag.
A third ad used a grainy black-and-white, slow-motion depiction of Davis' GOP opponent, Bill Simon, in linking him to former Gov. Pete Wilson.
"They gave a lot of attention to the Hispanic population," Bendixen said of the Davis campaign. "They made that personal connection."
Simon ran about $250,000 worth of Spanish-language ads, but few of them ran in the final weeks of the campaign. Unsuccessful GOP lieutenant governor candidate Bruce McPherson ran about $300,000 worth.
Though numbers are hard to come by, Bendixen noted that Davis is thought to have been supported by about 70 percent of Hispanic voters.
"If you took away the Latino vote in California, he would have lost," Bendixen said.
Davis' ad linking a Simon to Wilson, enduringly unpopular in the Hispanic community for his perceived anti-immigrant policies, was consistent with a campaign known mostly for its negative tone.
It differed, though, from what Segal described as a generally positive tone set by Spanish- language ads generally.
Nearly 90 percent of the Spanish-language ads run nationwide were characterized as positive. By contrast, the nonpartisan Wisconsin Advertising Project characterized only 40 percent of all congressional and gubernatorial candidates this year as positive.
Political strategists interviewed by Segal noted that surveys and focus groups alike identified Hispanic voter distaste for traditional negative ads. Thus, Texas Gov. Rick Perry ran a harsh English-language spot attacking his Democratic opponent Tony Sanchez, but also made what Segal termed a "calculated decision" not to air the ad in Spanish.
Though some of the ads simply slapped a Spanish translation on an otherwise English-language ad, a growing number appeared crafted specifically for the Hispanic audience.
Bendixen cited a Tony Sanchez ad showing the candidate glad-handing his way through a Hispanic club and other scenes.
The music, the rhythm and the all-around picture made Sanchez seem one with a distinct culture, Bendixen said.