Mobilizing the Latino Vote: ‘The Language Is the Message’

When your target audience is three-quarters bilingual, what’s the best language to use to get out the vote? The answer, of course, is “it depends.” It depends on which slice of the vote you are aiming for, and which language they prefer. But according to a recent study reported in American Politics Research, one language might actually be more effective if the strategy is to appeal to the voter’s civic pride.

Authors Marisa Abrajano and Costas Panagopoulos – professors at the University of California San Diego and Fordham University, respectively – found that Latinos were more likely to vote when approached with messages in English. While Latinos with a “low-propensity” to vote and who prefer Spanish were more motivated to vote after receiving the same messages in Spanish, Latinos in the aggregate were more receptive to the messages in English.

The study deserves attention for at least two reasons. First, while it’s not clear what one might generally conclude from the results, the idea that a certain type of message could be more effective in English should be of great interest to politicians in the upcoming season. Latinos continue to lag in voter turnout (roughly 50 percent versus 66 percent for the general public), yet they represent one of the most coveted ethnic groups in national elections. Anything that can credibly reduce the complexity of marketing to this diverse group will be welcome. Second, the idea could be just as compelling to general marketers. In what instances would English be more effective in mobilizing Latino consumers?

Read the entire article by Giovanni Rodriguez at ClickZ.