By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog
MIAMI — In the past year, media has experienced tremendous growth in South Florida. In 2011, CNN Español moved part of its studios from Atlanta to Miami. SoiTV also launched in Miami, highlighting social media channels like Facebook and Twitter.
In 2012 the local America Teve Fox launched its national affiliate, and World GenTV, a local Spanish Fox station, re-launched its programming last month.
And just weeks ago, ABC joined Univision to create the most ambitious media channel, a new English-language network aimed directly at Hispanics.
But could these efforts to introduce new media be trying to influence Hispanics’ political decisions?
It is no secret that select media have political leanings. There’s the conservative Fox News and MSNBC, which corresponds to a more liberal audience.
“The media often frame the context of certain issues that they find important,” said Nicol Rae, professor of political science at Florida International University in Miami. The professor added a main difference between English and Spanish programming is the added focus on immigration issues and language on Hispanic stations.
“We saw this in the discussion when Jorge Ramos of Univision pressed President Obama very hard on the immigration issue. Many Latinos follow the media, so they are definitely important,” said Rae.
The most recent surveys conducted by Pew Center and Latino Decisions, however, indicate that the most important issue for Hispanics remains the economy.
In a 2007 study by Stefano and Ethan Kaplan called “The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting,” the authors address the issue.
They found that when the conservative news network was introduced between October 1996 and November 2000 to 20 percent of U.S. cities, Republicans won a share of the vote in those cities. Specifically, the increase was 0.4 percent to 0.7 percent in towns that broadcast Fox News.
There is no similar study to survey the effect of MSNBC’s influences on Democrats.
Similarly, the Spanish-language networks continue to be the main source of information for Hispanics.
According to the Pew Research Center, Univision, the largest Hispanic network in the U.S., continues to gain viewers and compete with the English stations ABC, CBS and NBC.
The network has been involved in several get-out-the-vote campaigns centered on educating Hispanic voters. Their leaning is usually liberal, which makes it quite influential because it remains the most important source of information for a majority of the country’s Spanish speakers.
Does the trend related to how Hispanics viewObama?
According to a survey by Florida International University, registered voters nationwide found that Latinos are more generous to Obama’s foreign policy health policy. The survey, released Monday, also found that Hispanics favor the president on economic issues, which differs from national surveys to non-Hispanics.
The poll, conducted by FIU, the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald from Oct. 10-11, involved 1,000 Hispanic likely voters from across the country – with 720 in Florida. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent.
But the effect Univision has on Hispanic voters is not so clear.
“There is a kind of media frenzy with the subject of the Hispanic vote,” said Eduardo Gamarra, professor of international relations, who conducted the FIU study. “What is interesting is that the average Anglo-Saxon is not able to differentiate between a Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, etc. and sees Latinos in a solid voting bloc, unified and unique.”
“But we see very significant variations depending on nationality and it’s clearer in the state of Florida, where the Cuban vote is very harsh toward President Obama. They reject all his public policies, including health issues and they follow Republican voters,” said Gamarra. “But they’re more disciplined than the average Hispanic voter. Northern Florida is more like the rest of the country, because there are more Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, South Americans and Central Americans who are more Democrats.”
Gamarra found that Latinos overwhelmingly support ID requirements at the ballot box, something that contradicts the talking points put out by several groups.
José Gabilondo, professor of law of Florida International University College of Law, said that the importance of the Latino vote is often overstated. He said that 40 percent of the Latino vote is concentrated in Texas and California, which are not swing states are solidly vote for only one party.
“In some ways the most important states are Florida, Nevada, Arizona, which have fewer Latinos but which remain important. These Latinos are marginalized in the campaign because it’s the votes that count,” he said.
Gabilondo said the media plays a very important role, and that there should be a space for self-criticism, asking how much they should follow the claims of certain candidates.
“In the last month, these candidates have done their best to conceal their differences and have both followed this absurd strategy. Hopefully the voters realize that this is a political maneuver,” said Gabilondo.
Contact Marianela Toledo at Marianela.Toledo@FloridaWatchdog.org.
Florida Bureau Chief Yaël Ossowski translated this article.
Interviews with Jose Gabilondo and Nicol Rae: