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Latino Voters Being Targeted All Wrong…'Vote Your Values'… The Hispanic Vote: Is There Such A Thing?

Latino Voters Being Targeted All Wrong


October 4, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Dallas Morning News. All rights reserved.

Dallas — Because they're unpredictable — that is, likely to identify with Democrats but conservative enough to vote for Republicans — Latinos were believed to be in a position to decide the presidential election. President Bush said as much. So did John Kerry.

And they were right: Carving out even a sliver of what could be as many as 16 million Latinos expected to cast ballots on Nov. 2 could seal the election for either candidate.

So, with the contest a month away, you'd think that the campaigns would be pulling out all the stops with Latino voters. Not necessarily so, according to a new study. The amount of attention that Latino voters are getting depends a lot on where they live and what language they speak. If they live in a so-called battleground state and speak Spanish, they're being hit with television and radio commercials. But if they live in states assumed to be dependably red or blue, and speak English, it's likely they're being ignored.

That's the gist of the provocatively titled report, "Bikini Politics: The 2004 Presidential Campaigns' Hispanic Media Efforts Cover Only the Essential Parts of the Body Politic — A Select Group of Voters in a Few Battleground States." It represents research by the Hispanic Voter Project at Johns Hopkins University. The basic finding: While both Kerry and Bush have called the Latino vote critical, neither is making an all-out effort to win it.

So if you're Latino and happen to live in one of five states — Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida or Ohio — you're probably seeing plenty of Bush or Kerry on television.

But in the case of Latino voters, the problem is that, by ignoring the states considered out of play — such as New York, California, New Jersey, Texas, and Illinois — candidates turn their back on the majority of the population that they're trying to reach.

Then, there is language. Who came up with the bright idea of targeting Latino voters in Spanish? At a time when English-as-a-second-language classes are filling up in Latino neighborhoods and Latino parents are removing their children from bilingual education, geniuses in both presidential campaigns decided that the way to inspire Latinos to exercise their civic responsibility was in a foreign language.

These whiz kids must have missed the report by the Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center in April indicating that most Hispanics either get their news from English-language media or flip back and forth between English and Spanish stations. Just 24 percent of Latinos get all their news in Spanish.

How could both presidential campaigns, in going after Latino voters, have been so wrong about so much? It looks like they got some very bad advice.

So which candidate deserves the Latino vote? That's easy. Neither.

Focus On The Family Targets Hispanic Americans With The Message To 'Vote Your Values'

Focus on the Family Invests in Radio/Television/Experts/Campaign to Reach the Nation's Largest Minority

October 5, 2004
Copyright © 2004 PRNewswire. All rights reserved.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- As part of a multi-layered campaign, Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family on Monday announced the official launch of the Hispanic Voter Education Initiative, targeting the nation's largest minority group with the "I Vote Values" message through its many Spanish- speaking outlets and resources. Through extensive radio, television, print, and Web site outreach, the nation's premier pro-family organization called the campaign "only the beginning" of a commitment to serve the overwhelmingly conservative Hispanic American population.

Leading the campaign is International Human Rights attorney Yuri Mantilla, now Director of International Government Affairs at Focus on the Family. His work abroad and in the United States makes him uniquely qualified to lead an effort to rally Hispanic Americans.

"We know that 93 percent of our people are Christians," said Mantilla. "The two pillars of our organization are family and faith. We want to serve our constituents by bringing them the tools they need to vote their values, while mobilizing the Hispanic community into the most powerful pro-family influence in the United States."

Focus on the Family is well-known for its service to people who put their beliefs into action. The international ministry consists of a variety of different outreaches and, through its radio programs, reaches 220 million listeners each day in more than 160 countries. Of the United States' 533 Hispanic radio stations, 187 air the Enfoque a la Familia broadcast (Numbers: Bacon 2001). Enfoque a la Familia is popular throughout Latin America and is carried on 1,738 facilities worldwide.

The Hispanic Voter Education Initiative makes use of Spanish-language television spots and programming, as well as radio broadcasts and Public Service Announcements prepared for all Hispanic radio and television outlets. Materials will be distributed through pastors, priests and other religious leaders and via its Web site (

This initiative incorporates a strong, community-based approach. Mantilla will be creating a clearinghouse for Hispanic leaders and will be working to serve Hispanic Americans as a point person. Key contacts and materials will be used to communicate a message urging Latinos to allow their personal beliefs and core values to guide their votes.

For more information on this campaign or to request interviews or materials, please contact Focus on the Family at the numbers listed below.

Project components include:


A program discussing the importance of voting for your values. Subjects include gay marriage, abortion, cloning, euthanasia, and embryology.

Vote por sus valores. :60 seconds radio and TV PSA

Vote por sus valores. :30 seconds radio and TV PSA

Spots calling Hispanics to vote according to their values

For more information on the campaign or to request interviews or materials, please contact FOTF at the numbers listed below.

CONTACT: Kristi Hamrick, +1-571-244-6324

En Espanol: Josue Sierra, +1-719-531-3375

The Hispanic Vote: Is There Such A Thing?

By Luis Martínez-Fernández | Special to the Sentinel

October 14, 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved.

One hears much talk about the so-called Hispanic vote as a growing force within the U.S. political landscape. There is no such thing as a "Hispanic vote," however, just as there is no such thing as the Hispanic race or a Latino music. It should be well known that there are white, black, Indian, mestizo and mulatto Hispanics. Some of us prefer salsa, others tango, yet others mariachi music.

The notion of the Hispanic vote is not just incorrect, it is dangerous, for voters as well as for candidates. It assumes that Hispanics are a monolithic and homogenous bloc. It also hints that Latino voters cannot, or do not, want to discern among multiple political options. What are the risks of such assumptions?

First, they allow some political candidates -- particularly Democrats -- to take Latino support for granted, thereby paying little attention to them at election time and much less when political bounties are being distributed.

John Kerry's campaign is illustrative. I have yet to see a photograph or footage of Kerry within 20 feet of a Latino. If there are Hispanics in the leadership of his campaign, they must be keeping a very low profile. Can we honestly expect his Cabinet -- if he gets to put one together -- to have a fair representation of Latinos?

It was very revealing that when Kerry (white Northerner) sought to balance his ticket, he chose John Edwards (white Southerner) as his running mate, instead of say Bill Richardson (Hispanic Southwesterner). The strategy was flawed. In fact, it has backfired, and in all likelihood will cost him the White House. Kerry is losing every Southern state, where his campaign believed Edwards would attract white votes; he is also losing in the Southwestern states, where polls were much closer and where Bill Richardson as running mate would have sealed the deal.

Latinos need to work harder at dismissing the notion that they can be taken for granted by parties or candidates by sending clear messages that their votes are only lent, not given away; that they will vote mixed ballots; that they will punish candidates at the ballot box; and that, as a last resort, they will vote blank ballots if none of the alternatives is satisfactory.

In 2000, a few thousand Cuban-American voters decided the presidential election, punishing Al Gore for the Clinton administration's heavy-handed handling of the Elián González affair. More recently, many Cuban voters have been alienated by the Bush administration's restrictions against family unification travel between Cuba and the United States. President George W. Bush should not count on their votes.

In 2004, a few thousand Hispanic votes or abstentions in the Southwest may decide the elections, and the large Puerto Rican Florida vote may decide which way the Sunshine State goes.

Will the Democrats and Republicans learn the lesson in time for 2008?

Luis Martínez-Fernández is a professor of history and director of the Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies at the University of Central Florida. He wrote this commentary for the Orlando Sentinel.

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