LatinaLista — Dr. Federico Subervi, a professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Texas State University-San Marcos, is well-known for his research into mass media and their impact on ethnic minorities. He is the director of the Latinos and Media Project and is the author of the recently published academic title “The Mass Media and Latino Politics.”
Dr. Federico Subervi
Dr. Subervi’s recent research sheds light on how big a role media plays in the political participation rates of Latinos and how both political parties tailor their messages to reach Latino audiences.
Latinos have received significant attention during the 2008 presidential campaign. Democratic and Republican contenders have made numerous efforts to persuade Latinos to vote for them, while issues of importance to many Latinos—e.g., immigration reform, anti-immigrant bashing, and Free Trade agreements—have had center stage in the political campaign rhetoric.
Latino leaders have been courted to advocate for presidential candidates, Hispanic barrios and events have been visited for rallies and delivering speeches, Latinos have been asked for campaign contributions, and media spots have been produced in Spanish and English specifically targeting Latinos.
None of this is new, except that it started much earlier than in previous campaigns.
Also distinct this year is the intensity of the media-centered strategies to woo Latinos.
The primary season, still in process for Democrats, has already tallied millions of dollars of Latino-oriented media expenditures, surpassing any previous efforts directed to Latinos. Other distinctions have been the availability of Latino candidates and their surrogates to appear on Spanish-language media during the primaries, and the extensive sections that the various candidates’ web sites have dedicated Latinos and Latino issues.
No survey research to date has attributed the increased participation of Latinos in the primaries to the media and outreach efforts.
However, it is quite evident that Latinos have been mobilized, participating and voting in this campaign much more than in previous primary seasons.
Another reason for this mobilization and participation is Latinos’ reaction to the recurrent news and negative rhetoric by extremist politicians and pundits that directly or indirectly have painted “illegal” immigration and even Latinos in general as potential threats to homeland security, jobs, morality, etc.
While general market English-language media were contributing to fanning the flames of fear and insecurity, Spanish-language/Latino-oriented news and some entertainment media were informing and mobilizing their Latino audiences to take agency on these matters.
It remains to be seen if Latinos will be courted more intensely when the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees begin in earnest the campaign against each other. I predict that will happen, especially if the race gets real tight.
I also predict that the GOP’s Latino-oriented media efforts will be compassionate (promoting the American Dream, patriotism, and pro-immigration reform), but hard-line (increased homeland security, victory in Iraq, anti-illegal immigration) when directed to non-Latinos.
For the Democrats, there will be many common themes for Latinos and non-Latinos, but which ones will depend on who is the nominee.