Commentary

Hispanic Voters: The Under-Mobilized Demographic

There are numerous topics to consider in the 2014 midterm elections – the Middle East, the economy, job rates, and Ebola – not to mention the predicted low turnout for the elections themselves. Immigration is another major issue, but, in this election, it is one topic that is not getting much attention. 

One would think that the lack of a cohesive strategy on immigration reform would galvanize the Latino voting bloc but it would appear not. The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) actually expects to see a decrease in Hispanic voting of nearly 30% from 2012 levels. Hispanic voters may truly be assimilating to America’s political culture – a culture of apathy.

Hispanics make up a large percentage of the population in several key states for 2016 – California, Florida, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and even Texas, among others. According to a Pew research poll, Hispanics comprise nearly 17% of the American population, yet only accounted for 10% of the votes cast in 2012. This is in contrast to the African-American population in 2012 that only comprised 12% of the total American population and 13% of the total vote cast; additionally, white voters represented 71.1% of the population and 72% of the total vote cast. This disparity would indicate that the Hispanic population is under-mobilized. 

So, what is the best way to reach the Hispanic voting bloc?

The Hispanic demographic has a strong affinity for mobile technology. Latinos send and receive an average of 941 texts per month – more than any other demographic.Studies confirm that overall mobile usage by Hispanics tends to be equal to or greater than other demographic groups in nearly all other areas as well. Campaigns are beginning to recognize that reaching the voter on his or her mobile device is a strategic initiative as landline use continues to decline.

Campaigns and consultants are starting to embrace technology that targets specific groups of Latino voters on their mobile devices. GOTV (Get Out The Vote) campaigns have leveraged SMS texting technology to reach potential voters by setting up keyword promotions and sending out links with important information. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of supporters can be reached in just a few days with simple autodialer technology that leverages VoIP and cloud technology. GOTV campaigns are running at this very moment using bilingual staff to raise awareness about issues affecting Hispanics and encouraging them to vote. One client has made over 175,000 calls in just one month with only five or six staff members. With this type of service, a few staff members can use their mobile devices to make thousands of calls. 

Social media and more traditional platforms like mail and email should be used in combination with methods like SMS and phone. Adding text-in offers to direct mailers and emails, creating voice messages recorded by influential people, and setting up IVRs and sending texts that direct people to take action, are just a few ways to reach Hispanic voters. If a campaign can mobilize a single Latino voter, there is a good chance that he or she will influence other voters. Nielsen found that Hispanics demonstrate the following traits when compared to the average consumer:

  • 25% more likely to follow a brand
  • 18% more likely to follow a celebrity
  • 21% more likely to post links, articles, videos, and websites
  • 17% more likely to update a personal blog
  • 7% more likely to have one or more social networking profiles

The Hispanic voting population will continue to increase along with its members’ connectivity to mobile devices. Latino cell phone ownership went from 76% in 2009 to 86% in 2012 and is only growing. It would be unwise to disregard this group, regardless of studies indicating that it currently lacks influence. 

The cultural composition of the United States is not what it was 20 years ago, nor will it remain as-is for the next 20 years. If a party alienates a demographic group – any group – it is likely that they’ll lose support from that group for years to come. A key to connecting with voters is to do so on their own terms. This begins with using their preferred means of communication.

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