A new report from the Speak Our Language project by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) finds that Spanish-language advertising continues to represent a relatively small fraction of election advertising spending, even in the states with the largest and most electorally significant Hispanic populations.
Using comprehensive data on local television advertising from Kantar Media's CMAG, the study found that in the states analyzed from April 1, 2011-Sept. 25, 2012, the total spend on political advertising was $358,898,420 (this period covers the full "general election" season following the effective conclusion of the GOP primary campaign). Of that sum, $16,410,140 went to Spanish-language advertising, representing just 4.57 percent.
Commenting on these findings, Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the USHCC, said, "Political commentators from both sides of the aisle have said repeatedly that 2012 is the 'year of the Hispanic voter.' And, in fact, Hispanic voters are poised to play a decisive role in some of the most hotly contested battleground states from Nevada to Florida. But you wouldn't know it from the advertising of our political parties. Thus far in 2012, both parties seem to be spending comparatively little trying to reach Hispanic voters on the media platforms they prefer. The difference between rhetoric and action is striking and, frankly, troubling."
While both parties are spending a relatively small percentage of their advertising budgets on Spanish-language media, there are some noteworthy differences between the parties. At the presidential level, the Obama campaign and the various organizations supporting it have dedicated roughly 9 percent of all ad dollars in the 10 states analyzed by CMAG to Spanish-language media, while the Romney campaign and the organizations supporting it have dedicated just over 4 percent.
The same general pattern holds true further down the ballot. In the Senate races taking place in the surveyed states, Democratic candidates and supportive organizations have dedicated 3 percent of their budgets to Spanish-language advertising compared to 1 percent for GOP candidates and groups. At the U.S. House level, Democratic candidates and groups have invested about 12 percent of their ad dollars in Spanish-language, while thus far Republican House campaigns have invested less than 1 percent.
CMAG President Ken Goldstein noted that "Historically, Spanish-language advertising has represented a relatively small share of all political dollars. This year, there has been a great deal of speculation that we would see a significant jump in Spanish-language ad spending. That may yet happen, but so far this cycle it appears that ad spending is closer to historical norms than any sort of break out year."
This trend has held true even in states with the largest Hispanic populations on a percentage basis. For example, in Florida, where 16 percent of all registered voters are Hispanic, only 7 percent of the more than $107 million dollars spent to-date have been on Spanish-language media. Similarly, in the battleground state of Nevada, where 10 percent of registered voters are Hispanic, roughly 5 percent of the $46.5 million spent on advertising so far has been dedicated to Spanish-language media.
"The truth is that advertising is the single most effective tool candidates and parties have to communicate their message to voters," said Monica Lozano, CEO of impreMedia. "So when those candidates and parties fail to advertise on Spanish-language media, it has the practical effect of cutting millions of Hispanics out of America's political conversation."
"There is no 'right' level of Spanish-language advertising. But certainly both major parties should be prioritizing Hispanic voters and dedicating real resources to reaching those voters," Palomarez said. "It is not clear that has happened yet in 2012. With just over a month until Election Day, we are hoping to see more focus on connecting with Hispanic voters nationwide, and we plan to release a final report immediately following the election."
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