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2003 Election Cycle's Largest Hispanic-Targeted Exit Poll Reveals Opportunities For Political Parties, Candidates Investment In Hispanic Outreach Generated 60% Increase In First-Time Voter Turnout; Campaign Registered Over 170,000 Hispanic Voters In 18 Months And Will Hit 300,000 Target by 2004
November 6, 2003
Washington, Nov. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- During the November 4, 2003 general elections, the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) conducted the nation's largest Hispanic-targeted exit poll of the 2003 election cycle. Conducted midway through the second year of PRFAA's grass-roots driven and media-supported education, registration and mobilization effort, the election-day poll found that 14% of Hispanics who cast ballots on November 4 were first-time voters compared to the 9% of first-time voters in the 2000 presidential election as reported by Voter News Services (VNS). This change represents a nearly 60% increase in the number of first-time voters.
PRFAA, which serves as the mainland presence of the government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, conducted the poll as part of its ongoing Hispanic-targeted voter education, registration and mobilization campaign entitled "Que Nada Nos Detenga!" (Let Nothing Stop Us!) which encourages Puerto Rican and Hispanic voters to become civically engaged in their own communities across the nation. Puerto Rico Governor Sila M. Calderon launched the campaign in ten states in July 2002 and it has since expanded to fourteen states including such key battleground areas as Florida, Indiana, New York and Pennsylvania.
Lessons for Political Parties, Candidates and Issue Organizations
The poll contains numerous results that demonstrate that Hispanics and Puerto Ricans will turn out to vote in large numbers -- when effectively empowered and motivated by a focused effort that educates and mobilizes them.
"The poll's first-time turnout rate shows that if parties and other organizations dedicate real resources to target Hispanics in a relevant way that touches the heart of issues that are important to them, it is clear that the voters will turn out," said Dr. James Forrest, Account Group Manager with Synovate's Diversity Research group.
"Around the country, Hispanic turnout was significantly down -- but it was up in those areas where focused outreach efforts such as our "Que Nada Nos Detenga!" education and mobilization campaign were active. Imagine what a 60% increase in turnout could mean to a political party or to a candidate -- if they made the commitment to earn the Hispanic vote," Aponte continued.
The poll also bears an ominous warning for candidates and parties who believe the Hispanic vote can be taken for granted or captured via emotional or personality appeals. Whereas 49% of voters came out to vote because they felt their "voice needs to be heard" and 28% because "the issues are important to me," only 20% indicated they voted because "candidates on the ballot need my support."
"It is clear that Hispanic voters want to be actively involved, we want to be informed about issues and take a stand. In order to better reach Hispanics parties and candidates should employ targeted resources that speak to us in a relevant and profound way," said Forrest.
All Politics Are Local
An overwhelming portion of voters polled -- 37% -- indicated they were motivated to vote because they believed the Hispanic or Puerto Rican community would benefit.
"We keep our community in mind when we vote," said Aponte, "and the issues that are important to us are not necessarily the same ones that are omnipresent in today's national dialogue."
When Hispanics were asked what issues prompted them to turn out to vote, issues that are virtually invisible in the public debate -- such as providing affordable housing (9%) and addressing discrimination against Latinos (9%) -- emerge as key motivators.
Other issues which ranked as important include improving education (18%), crime reduction (9%), the war on terrorism (8%) and the war in Iraq (4%).
"The traditionally accepted means of motivating Hispanic voters use an emotional rather than substantive appeal while sprinkling a few Spanish words into ads and speeches," said Aponte.
"What this data -- and similar studies by respected nonpartisan organizations such as the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) and National Council of La Raza (NCLR) -- shows is that by pandering to cultural stereotypes and ignoring the substantive issues that are truly important to Hispanics, candidates and parties are missing their opportunity to capture the hearts and minds of a crucial swing voting block," she continued.
"Invitation Plus Information Equals Participation"
While poll results indicated that voters tend to feel confident that they were familiar enough with issues to cast a ballot, 73% indicated they would want more information to help make the right decisions when voting. 51% of those requesting more information preferred to talk to someone in their community about the issues or receive written information from someone they trust. In comparison, 50% wanted more information from the media, 39% wanted information through the mail and 13% wanted information via email or the web. 57% of Hispanics that requested more information preferred that information in some written form that could be read and digested rather than quick bursts of information found in television or radio commercials.
Marcelo Gaete, Senior Director of Programs for NALEO, said "We've learned that the closer the campaign is to the community, the greater the response by Hispanics. This has major implications for how candidates need to run their outreach. Having a serious conversation with Latinos entails more than just a soundbite."
Turning A Campaign Into A Movement
The extensive grass-roots and media education effort launched in 2002 has had great impact in registering the Puerto Rican and Hispanic community to vote and turning them out to the polls on election day. The "Que Nada Nos Detenga!" campaign's brand awareness is also clearly taking root as evidenced by 55% percent of the voters interviewed reported having had contact with the campaign through grass-roots information distribution or media outreach.
"The results of this study suggest that the voter registration drive conducted by PRFAA has had a significant effect on the turnout among first time voters. If this increase in first time voters continues, Hispanics will unquestionably be a deciding segment of the voting population come 2004 and all parties should take note of that," said Forrest.
"This campaign is all about empowerment. When we are all long gone, this campaign will have taken on a life of its own to strengthen our community so we are more educated, more self-reliant and more vocal about what our community needs to grow and continue being productive contributors to our great nation," said Aponte. "Politicians better take note, because we're here to stay. We're saying "Presente!"
About the Poll
The analysis and results in this executive summary are based on 469 interviews with Hispanic voters who participated in the November 4 election. Respondents were interviewed in English and Spanish in 23 precincts in New York (5), New Jersey (5), Pennsylvania (5), Massachusetts (4) and Connecticut (4). The sample was designed to be representative of the Puerto Rican electorate in the states where the "Que Nada Nos Detenga!" campaign is active, which represent over 85% of all Puerto Ricans in the U.S. A subsample of other Hispanics was included to represent the non-Puerto Rican electorate in these states. The exit poll was conducted by Miami-based Synovate Diversity (previously Strategy Research Corporation), one of the world's top 10 market research companies. Synovate offers full service custom research, business intelligence and publications about the U.S. Diversity markets, since 1971. The margin of error for the full sample of the study is 4.5 percentage points.
About the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA)
PRFAA serves as the mainland presence of the government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and is responsible for the advancement and well-being of Puerto Ricans on the Island and the United States. The agency serves as the advisor to the Governor, Resident Commissioner and constituents on all activities in the United States while facilitating and promoting economic and public policy initiatives important to the growth and empowerment of all Puerto Rican communities. The agency operates 12 regional community outreach offices in Boston, Springfield (MA), Chicago, Cleveland, Hartford, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Newark, Orlando and Philadelphia and is headquartered in Washington, D.C.
For a copy of the exit poll or subsample analyses (by market, age, gender, education level, length of time in the U.S. and frequency of voting) please contact Celeste Diaz Ferraro at (202) 955-8449 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, please visit http://www.prfaa.com/
CONTACT: Celeste Diaz Ferraro of Puerto Rico Federal AffairsAdministration, +1-202-955-8449, or +1-202-271-7263, email@example.com