Nation — 23 July 2013

By Victor Abalos

As a Latino, I’ve always appreciated meeting people who aren’t Latino but have made the effort to learn Spanish. I believe speaking my grandparent’s mother tongue helps me, and hopefully anybody else who learns it, appreciate my culture in a special way.

Unfortunately, some people wear that knowledge like some kind of Political Correctness Badge. After meeting me, they’ll immediately announce they speak Spanish and then insist on conducting a conversation in their tortured Spanish which usually sounds like they’re asking me to bring them more guacamole.

Barack_Obama_calls_Space_Shuttle_Atlantis_crew_2009-05-20That’s the first thought I had reading the New York Time’s “White House Focuses on Reaching Latino Viewers.” It seems the White House has fallen victim to a communications myth most of the marketing and advertising world is already reconsidering: Going on Univisión or Telemundo is the best way to reach Latinos.

Mr. Obama, if you want to get a message to me about your policy priorities or get my feedback, you don’t have to talk to me in Spanish. Like the annoying person who meet me and then insists of speaking to me in Spanish, I quickly determine that conversation speaks more about you than to me.

You aren’t really trying to communicate with me as much as you’re attempting to make some kind of PC statement. I also take note that you only make a specific effort to reach me as a Latino when you want to talk about immigration – as if that’s the only thing I care about.

Yes, I want to know what you’re doing about immigration (and why you keep deporting so many people) but I actually care more about what you’re doing to develop economic policies that encourage job growth. I need to know what the federal government can do to increase our investment in education because I know that’s a transformative force in my community. I’d also like you to explain why you need to know who I’m sending emails to. And when you get around to talking to me about something other than immigration, you are welcome to do it in English.

I’m not opposed to an aggressive outreach strategy by the White House to the Spanish-language news networks. I’m glad Spanish-language news is finally being recognized as a vital vehicle to connect with Latinos. But those networks are only one avenue to reach Latinos – and they’re not the most effective when you want to talk to Latino voters.

Let’s put some facts out there. The Pew Hispanic Center just released the results of a survey that show, “a growing share of Latino adults are consuming news in English from television, print, radio and internet outlets, and a declining share are doing so in Spanish.” This didn’t just happen, it’s part of a ten-year trend. In fact, 82% of Hispanic (Latino) adults said they got at least some of their news in English, up from 78% seven years ago.

How effective is the White House Univision/Telemundo strategy? In California, a recent Field Poll showed a dramatic drop in the percentage of Latino voters who approve of the President’s job performance. California Latinos support President Obama – a whopping 76% approved of his performance last February. That’s 21 percentage points higher than White non-Hispanic voters. But when polled in July, the percentage of Latino voters who support the President dropped seven points.

Maybe they really don’t like the job he’s doing.

Or maybe, they’re not watching Univisión or Telemundo.

(Editor’s note: This column was republished from LatinoLA!)


About Author

Victor Abalos

Victor is a public affairs and communications consultant who works extensively with Latino organizations.

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