LatinaLista — The old childhood saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” was debunked long ago. We know that words do matter, equally — in this smartphone era — as images. So when the National Hispanic Media Coalition sponsored a poll of national (non-Hispanic) perceptions of Latinos and immigrants, their findings weren’t a big surprise.
The report, The Impact of Media Stereotypes on Opinions and Attitudes Towards Latinos, found that negative media portrayals and hate speech in media contributed to a distorted and ignorant assumption of Latinos and immigrants by non-Latinos.
One of the most common misperceptions of the two groups, validated by the poll’s findings, is that people think “Latinos and undocumented immigrants are one in the same, with 17% of survey respondents actually believing that the majority of U.S. Latinos are undocumented.”
It’s not a surprise finding when people, who aren’t familiar with Latinos, only see on television the undocumented getting media attention. Then again, it’s only 17 percent who think this wrongheaded way, meaning 83 percent of people know better.
However, there were some other findings that indicate the Latino community may need a major public relations campaign:
- People exposed to negative entertainment or news narratives about Latinos and/or immigrants hold the most unfavorable and hostile views about both groups.
- Negative portrayals of Latinos and immigrants are pervasive in news and entertainment media. Consequently, non-Latinos commonly believe that many media-promoted negative stereotypes about these groups are true.
- Conservative talk radio and Fox News audiences are less likely to be personally familiar with Latinos yet more likely to hold anti-immigrant and anti-Latino views. Without direct experience with Latinos, media takes on a larger role in establishing these opinions and attitudes.
- Even those most disposed to positive opinions about Latinos have less favorable opinions when exposed to negative entertainment or news narratives.
- In discussing those in this country without documentation, the term commonly employed by some media outlets, “illegal aliens,” elicits much more negatives feelings than the term “undocumented immigrants.”
- Non-Latinos report seeing Latinos in stereotypically negative or subordinate roles (gardeners, maids, dropouts, and criminals) in television and film.