Latino voters left out of election spending on TV ads

Michelle Clancy | 05-11-2012

Latino voters will play a critical role in the 2012 presidential race. An estimated 12 million Latinos will cast ballots this November, making up a significant portion of the electorate in swing states like Colorado, Florida and Nevada. However, a U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce study found that while close to $360 million was spent on political advertising in 10 states from early April through September, just $16 million or 4.6% of the total went to ad buys on Spanish-language TV.

"One might assume that the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, political parties and Super PACs would spare no expense to win over Latino voters," said Joseph Torres and Josh Stearns, analysts at research firm Free Press. "But so far this has not been the case at least judging by the relatively paltry amount of political ads on Spanish-language TV this election cycle."

The Obama campaign and supporting organisations have spent $7 million or 9% of their ad dollars on Spanish-language ads, while the Romney campaign and its supporters have spent $3.2 million, or 4% of their total ad dollars.

"Political commentators from both sides of the aisle have said repeatedly that 2012 is the 'year of the Hispanic voter,'" said Javier Palomarez, president of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "But while political advertising spending records are being shattered, neither political party is investing a comparable%age of their advertising dollars to reach these voters. The difference between rhetoric and action is striking and, frankly, troubling."

But it's not just the presidential campaigns that are ignoring Spanish-language television. In August and September, Free Press visited 11 Spanish-language stations in the battleground states of Colorado, Florida and New Mexico, and found that Super PACs and other third-party groups have also made very few ad buys at these stations.

The low numbers are notable given the overall ad spends: Free Press analysts point out the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling has made this a record-breaking year for political ad spending. Analysts project that more than $3 billion will be spent on political ads.