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More on Latino turnout

Greg adds in his opinion on the Latino turnout question, and as usual it’s worth your time to read in full. Two things for me to comment on. First:

If there is a one point that I’ve been reluctant to air publicly, it’s this: The two worst classes of people to talk to about Hispanic outreach are 1) Hispanic politicians, and 2) Hispanic political consultants. While there is certainly insight to be gained from both, neither has much of an idea of how to make the dream of massive electoral turnout among Hispanics happen.

In discussing Kuff’s blog post from earlier this month on the topic with him a while back, I made the point that one reason you never hear the alleged master plans for ginning up turnout being talked about is because too often, there’s a golden goose at stake. In other words, there are groups and individuals out there that will promise you massive increases in turnout among Hispanics. And for a small (or large) sum, they’ll promise to put it into action. With their people, with their plan, with their supervision, and often … with little accountability. If the candidate wins, then no questions are asked. If the candidate loses, you just move on down the line and pitch the next moneybag candidate. This isn’t solely the case in Hispanic politics, mind you. It’s predominant among a number of base-partisan communities of all colors and all stripes.

One reason why I suggested that we begin thinking about this problem by thinking about raising money address it is because I think to some extent the question of Latino voting needs to be removed from individual candidates and campaigns in favor of a more holistic and ongoing approach. I don’t know how much the Democratic community as a whole learns about what works and what doesn’t from one campaign to the next, I don’t know how much of what does get learned gets transmitted from one campaign to another, and I don’t know how much of what gets learned is worth learning. Wouldn’t it be nice to institutionalize that? Tell me if you think I’m off base here.

I doubt that I’ll ever get too deeply into the retelling of events from the last campaign I worked on, but one move that I think served our opponent well was that he hired consumer marketers as part of their Hispanic outreach. For Dems, that type of move doesn’t fully substitute for the need to knock on doors and make phone calls. But I do think it’s a wiser move than relying on the conventional, in-house political wisdom of what moves Hispanic voters.

One point I’ll throw into the mix for now: the concept of where Hispanic voters are is something that tends to get oversimplified and this often skews the understanding of what issues, values, and language motivate them as well as what network of people they surround themselves with. In other words, East End or Northside activists probably aren’t your best bet to talk the talk to the more numerous number of Hispanic voters that live in the suburbs.

I’ll be introducing some research over the week to make this point more fully. For now, here’s three maps to compare and contrast some 2000 Census data for Harris County on where high-density concentrations of Hispanic population live and where the more diffuse populations are. They show census tracts where the Hispanic population represents 65% of the total population, 35% of the population, and 25% of the population. My point, boiled down to it’s core, is this: We do a great job as a part of speaking to those areas where we are at 65% and a not-so-good job to those where we are at 25% and 35%. And the scary part of that premise is that there are more Hispanics that live in the more diffuse areas than there are that live in the concentrated areas.

I made the point that Latinos are on average younger than us non-Latinos, and as such they don’t necessarily consume news and media the same way us old fogeys do. NewsTaco enhances that observation:

Latinos are the fastest growing digital technology user group in the country. It hasn’t taken long for someone to begin picking Latino on line behavior apart; proven markets with a potential for growth will do that. ComScore is the latest someone to do it. Here’s what comScore, that calls itself “a global leader in measuring the digital world and the preferred source of digital marketing intelligence,” has to say about Latino on line activity in a recent website post: “Hispanic consumers are more receptive to online advertising than non-Hispanic internet users.”

In other words, Latinos click and read on line advertisements more than others – what marketers call click rates. Or as RICG.com puts it, “Whereas 31 percent of Hispanic Americans enjoy watching online advertisements, only 19 percent of the broader consumer audience agreed with that statement. Hispanics were also more likely to base their purchase decisions on digital marketing initiatives (30 percent compared to 15 percent) and remember advertised products when shopping (35 percent compared to 22 percent).”

Seems to me we could learn something from that.

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3 Comments

  1. Greg Wythe says:

    I’m a little agnostic on whether there’s something of value that can be institutionalized. There are presently a number of field organizer groups out there that would love to be the institution if someone wants to write a check. But the reality is that there always will be multiple check-writers writing checks to different micro-institutions. Not that this means nothing should be done, just that I think it requires a dose of reality about what’s attainable.

    Of course, there have been past efforts that have met with some limited success. Ernie Cortes and Willie Velasquez. If either were to begin anew in the current media environment, it’s debatable how they might survive. And given Ernie Cortes’ 2005 sentiments, it’s perhaps debatable how well his efforts might be viewed by more left-leaning Democrats.

    What I believe their model does demonstrate for today is that the solution has to come from within as an organic desire to turn a demographic destiny into a political reality. Until that day comes, anything else strikes me as artificial … and probably illusory.

    One point worth adding about youth and online media as a component of the “different” media being consumed in Hispanic culture. One of the aspects of online advertising we did in the Bill White campaign as online ads on Spanish websites and with the ads in Spanish. The click-through rates were very impressive and I think that component of our online campaign went very well. But one thing that I can’t speak to authoritatively is whether the selection of web sites the ads were aimed at were optimal. Certainly, they met all the metered criteria for being the type of sites you go after when aiming at Hispanic voters. But there’s a lot of fuzziness in those rankings.

    Bear in mind that a lot of the press releases and “studies” we see like that referenced by NewsTaco are aimed at driving demand for a product. I’ve seen a lot of the research and I’ve seen a lot of findings in English media that are more pitch than productivity. Until campaigns learn to experiment across a broader scale of media (both online and traditional) and have the smarts to arrive at their own conclusions, I don’t think we’ll ever get the conclusive answer about what works best for Hispanic media than we have for English-speaking media. Recall that we still have ginormous debates over how much money deserves to be allocated on broadcast and cable … and then add on Hulu and other online video mediums to that equation.

  2. Michael McPhail says:

    I fully agree that we must do more to save earned wisdom from one election cycle to the next. The county Democratic Party is the best structure to this. It must exist to keep the primary elections going so it will always be around. Given our use of VAN we cna store a great deal of data about the effectiveness of various methods of Hispanic (and other) voter turnout. The people at that office would probably have a much greater feel for what’s going on in their community than a consultant who might live hundreds of miles away and only knows what he knows from survey results.

    I truly hope someone donor will take a similar approach to that of the Texas Democratic Trust but instead focus on building up the county parties to the greatest extent feasible and developing regional centers to handle the excess responsibilities for surrounding areas that cannot get the work done.

  3. Sandra Phillips says:

    Michael, I agree that the local level is the best way to gotv as they know what the local issues are and what the voters are most interested in. In my experience, most voters, hispanics included think that it does not matter who is in they are all alike (until things got so bad in the Bush years), but they still do not watch or read enough news to keep informed so word of mouth, door to door or handouts or online communities would help to overcome the feeling that “other people know best, I don’t know who to vote for” and they will vote for the name recognition if they vote at all. Of course, this does not apply to all, but I’m afraid a majority do not feel qualified to pick a candidate on their own and wait for recommendations from TV, newspapers or voters guides or a candidate they DO trust who shares a list of other good candidates.

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