Obama or Romney? Univision Advises Candidates on How to Conquer the Latino Vote in 2012

Univision, a Spanish-language television network, has released a video on why Latin American voters are the key to November’s election. As a TV network that has connected with Hispanics “not because they can’t understand English — but because English language TV doesn’t always understand them,” it urges politicians to use its marketing model for their campaigns and to pay attention to the Hispanic population.

Hispanics will vote in huge numbers in this year’s election. While both candidates have begun to cater more to Latin American voters, they need to do more -- both with issues that typically concern Hispanics, such as immigration, and with issues that concern all Americans. Marketing strategy can teach a lot to political campaigns.

50 million Hispanics live in the United States, making up 16.3% of the population. They are the fastest-growing segment of the population, as 500,000 Hispanics turn 18 every month. Indeed, they are highly engaged in the electoral process -- 84% of registered Hispanic voters participated in 2008. 14 million are expected to vote this year. Moreover, they are potential swing voters. Hispanics may decide the victory in 12 of 15 swing states. In 2008, they represented 38% of votes in New Mexico, 15% in Florida, and 13% in Colorado.

It is unclear how Hispanics will vote this year. 67% voted for Obama in 2008. They may be less supportive this year, however, because of his failure to reform immigration and the record number of deportations of illegal immigrants seen in his first term. He also hasn’t delivered on the Dream Act, a bill that would offer a path towards citizenship for undocumented young people in college or in the military. Still, his stance is preferable to that of Romney, who has called the extreme Arizona’s HB1070 bill “a model” for the nation and has echoed the polarizing anti-immigrant sentiment of the Republican party.

How can the candidates better reach Hispanics? Univision argues that its successful marketing strategy can still teach a lot to both political campaigns, especially in courting the Latin American vote. The key is recognizing that Hispanics care not only about their own specific interests, but also about the issues that concern any American. 

Politicians mistakenly assume that Hispanics care only about immigration, when in fact they care more about jobs and education. Therefore, Randy Falco, president and CEO of Univision Communications, suggests a “total-market” approach -- create one brand, one message, and one creative platform, and simply adjust it to different languages and cultures. The Univision video emphasizes the dual identity of these voters as both Hispanic in origin but also citizens of the United States -- as it puts it, fútbol and football.

Indeed, recognizing the concern for job creation among Hispanics, the GOP campaign has focused on economic reform as its way of winning Latin American voters. And understanding that translation may be the key, Obama has put out more ads in Spanish.

Marketing and advertising offer other advice for political campaigns. As companies cater to consumers, candidates should focus more on the voters than their own qualifications or the other candidates. In 2008, Obama spent more time talking about voters’ needs than McCain, who spent more time talking about himself. Finally, positivity is better than negativity. While Bain Capital ads have forced Romney to defend himself, Obama won the last election with “Hope” not mudslinging. 

To win the election this year, both candidates need to speak to the Hispanic population. Univision suggests that Latin American voters care about all issues, not just immigration, and may simply need the candidates to be put their views in more familiar terms. Marketing in general shows that more voters, more positivity is a good strategy.