Instead of Edward R. Murrow and Leave it to Beaver, the television sets of the Next America are tuned to Jorge Ramos and La que No Podía Amar. Candidates for office are taking notice, as well they should.
From community papers to national television networks, audiences provide a clear picture of who America is and will be. And as the smart minds in the media know, new audiences are essential to their success.
Between 2001 and 2010, the Latino population in the U.S. grew 46 percent, to more than 50 million people. Because Latinos make up one of the nation’s youngest communities on average, the economic impact of Latinos will extend for generations.
These new audiences are equally essential to political success, and they will become only more important. Candidates whose stands on immigration pander to fear amid a rapidly diversifying America are choosing a niche market for their “product” — and leaving a huge new market untapped.
A market that, in surprising ways, is not so different than the rest of the U.S.
According to Ad Age’s Hispanic Fact Pack, Hispanics’ favorite English-language prime-time television programs are Dancing With the Stars (1.2 million Hispanic viewers) on broadcast networks and WWE professional wrestling (more than 700,000 Hispanic viewers) on cable TV. The largest social-networking site for Hispanics is Facebook (23.5 million unique Hispanic users).
With 75 percent of Latinos consuming media in both Spanish and English, the crossover appeal is remarkable. Magazines such as People En Español and efforts by sports teams to reach out to Latino markets (“Los Lakers,” for example) are just the tip of the iceberg.
Politicians pursuing Latino votes will appreciate not only the sheer size of the audience but its sophistication.
Fostered for years by newspapers such as La Opinión (based in Los Angeles), El Diario/La Prensa (New York City), El Nuevo Herald (Miami) and hundreds of smaller publications, Hispanic voters are tuned in to public-policy debates and focused on candidates’ promises and commitments.
Univision, with its audience of 3.5 million households (25 percent of Hispanic viewership) and with world-famous news anchor Jorge Ramos, has capitalized on this interest for years — not least as the Senate prepared to vote on the Dream Act in December 2010.
The vote was a watershed moment for Latinos in America. It represented a glimmer of hope after years of Republican obstruction and the (relatively newer) phenomenon of record deportations under the Obama administration.
Univision televised the Dream Act debate from start to finish, searing in the mind of Latino voters the opinions and votes of senators of both parties.
Fast-forward to 2012, and you can see a change in candidates' behavior.
The Los Angeles Times recently reported an increase in the amount of time candidates are spending with news outlets that serve Hispanic audiences, and it projected that campaigns will spend more ad money reaching Latinos through Univision and Telemundo than ever before.
Meanwhile, NBC, Fox News and The Huffington Post — as well as Univision News — have launched English-language web portals that cater specifically to Latino audiences.
And in a clear shot across the bow of all of its competitors, on July 30 Univision News officially closed the deal on a joint venture with ABC News for the first 24-hour English-language news network aimed at bilingual Hispanics. You can bet that future poll-watching political candidates will eagerly accept the opportunity to appear on the new network, before the eyes of new voters. The appeal of reaching thousands of new American voters will be too good to pass up.
Just like their fellow Americans, Latino voters care deeply about the economy, access to affordable health care and quality education for their children. But, as a recent Fox News Latino poll confirms, the immigration issue is personal and heartfelt for Latinos. Where a candidate stands on immigration signals to Latino voters whether the candidate and his or her party respects their familia and their neighbors.
As with consumer dollars, so too with votes: The influence of the Latino audience and electorate is growing.
Voting for the next American Idol is one thing; voting for the next president is quite another. Candidates, take heed.
Ali Noorani is the executive director of the National Immigration Forum. Noorani has more than a decade of successful leadership in public-policy advocacy, nonprofit management, and coalition organizing across a wide range of issues.
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