In this election, media’s Latino coverage came up short
My recent, unscientific survey of Latino journalists across the country found a near-unanimous belief that the media failed Hispanics in the run-up to the presidential election.
Their reasons for criticizing the mainstream media (as opposed to Latino-focused English-language media or Spanish-language media) were varied — from cable news networks elevating a Hispanic Donald Trump apologist who warned against taco trucks on every corner if Hillary Clinton was elected, to largely ignoring anti-Latino slams like Trump’s “bad hombres” comment and Mike Pence’s “that Mexican thing.”
For any number of reasons, frustrations with how Hispanic stories were framed or simply overlooked made Latinos upset before the polls closed. And it infuriated them after Presidentelect Trump was named the victor.
Sadly, even as the mainstream media are bending over backward with mea culpas about not predicting a Trump win, they’re still flirting with getting the Latino vote narrative wrong again.
After the election, CNN, ABC, The Associated Press and other media outlets cited Edison Research exit polls that said 29 percent of Latinos voted for Donald Trump — more than voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.
There’s no disputing that there were indeed a significant number of Hispanics who voted for Trump for a variety of reasons, such as his stance on abortion and his promise to end Obamacare. The Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project had estimated that Trump’s share of the Latino vote would be 19 percent and Latino Decisions’ exit polling estimated it at 18 percent.
These numbers illustrate that, contrary to the monolithically Democrat-leaning “Latino vote” that news outlets refer to, the Hispanic electorate is diverse in its political preferences.
During a post-election telephone briefing, Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions said that Edison Research’s own 2005 self-critique noted that its polling was not designed to yield reliable estimates of the characteristics of geographically clustered demographic groups, like Hispanics, and that such exit polls included larger sampling errors.
Not everyone is convinced that the Latino Decisions polls were more accurate than exit polling (and some believe the firm has a political agenda because some of its staff had ties to the Clinton campaign), so we’ll have to wait for national final tallies to learn how Latinos actually voted.
In the meantime, initial results should be a lesson to mainstream media outlets to put an end to simplistic reporting that popularizes terms like “the Sleeping Giant” and alternately frames Hispanic voters as almighty determiners of elections or nonentities in the electoral process. The fact is, Hispanic voters made their voices heard loud and clear on Election Day.
Vargas told me that though the Latino surge was not big enough to outdo the surge of angry white voters in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, “we still have to recognize that traditional voter engagement absolutely worked even though Latino-led organizations were not well-funded because the voter outreach money went to non-Latino organizations that, frankly, didn’t know what they were doing.”
If this election has taught us anything, it’s that Hispanic voters need consistent, ongoing engagement, cultivation and investment to continue to be able to make their mark on the electoral process. And that goes for both get-out-the-vote efforts and fair portrayals and coverage in the media.