Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Getting out the Latino vote

If only Latinos voted in proportion to their (registered, citizen) numbers, this country would be a different, perhaps better, place. But, mostly, they don't. In 2012 only 48 percent of eligible Latinos voted.

These days, academics and campaign professionals rely on practical experiments to discover how to persuade unlikely voters to go out and cast a ballot. Latino Decisions reports on one such experiment under the title Mobilizing Latinos with Identity Appeals. Researchers arranged for telephone calls to good-sized populations (several thousand in each set) of potential Latino voters in California and Texas in areas which were majority Latino. One group got a message about recycling. One was urged to vote by "the American Voter Project," trying to turn out “American voters” to make the “American community heard.” Another was contacted by the “Latino Voter Project,” as part of a campaign to turn out “Latino voters,” and was designed to make the “Latino community heard.”

The results appear in this chart:

Researchers concluded that more affluent Latinos, who usually have been in the U.S. for a generation or more, respond well to the "American" message -- but many (even most) Latinos for whom Spanish language culture is daily life respond better to the "ethnic identity" message. Both messages increase Latino turnout significantly, especially if targeted to the appropriate voters.

The chart reminds me of what I learned in the 2004 campaign when I worked in Albuquerque in campaigns that might have been expected to help the Democratic presidential candidate. Nowadays we take for granted that New Mexico is a blue state. But in 2004, George W. Bush narrowly outpolled John Kerry. The Latinos I worked with (who mostly called themselves Hispanics) were not surprised: they said no campaign had never contacted any of their relatives. These citizens might as well as have not existed as far as both Republicans and Democrats were concerned.

The Latino Decisions chart says to me that simply contacting Latino voters about the election at all, with any message, raises turnout. In some places, the better message is American patriotism; in most Latino places, the best message is Latino identity. But in either case, what comes first is bothering to reach out to people who may not think voting is for them. The dividends of making the contact will be large.

The Clinton campaign seems to be running a strong field operation where it matters. Their data -- their understanding of who their potential voters are -- is very good. Here's hoping they are doing the job of making those contacts in the places where potential Latino voters have been accustomed to being ignored. That's how to get out the Latino vote.
The Washington Post has a terrific story about how canvassers from the Center for Community Change are going to door to door in Florida to turn out unlikely, but registered, Latino voters. Many don't know for sure how or where to vote, but they are eager to absorb explanations from a Spanish speaking canvasser. These people will not feel ignored!

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