In this elec­tion, me­dia’s Latino cov­er­age came up short

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - Es­ther J. Cepeda Colum­nist Es­ther Cepeda’s email ad­dress is es­ther­j­cepeda@wash­post.com. Fol­low her on Twit­ter, @ es­ther­j­cepeda.

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.

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