TOPICS > Politics

Spanish-Language Election Ad Spending Eight Times Higher in 2012 Than 2008

October 2, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
Judy Woodruff talks to NPR's Greg Allen, who traveled to Raleigh, N.C., to explore how the presidential candidates are spending campaign funds to target Latinos, voters who are generally younger and hard hit by the economic downturn. But some political messages, like on health care reform, may be mismatched to their audience.
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TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: The NewsHour and NPR are tracking how the presidential campaigns are spending their ad dollars to target specific demographic groups in battlegrounds like North Carolina.

Our partner Kantar Media/CMAG found that President Obama and Mitt Romney have spent eight times more money this year on Spanish-language ads than in 2008.

NPR’s Greg Allen went to Raleigh to explore how those ads were being used to target the growing Hispanic population in the state, and the messages the candidates are using to appeal to this younger and economically hard-hit group of voters.

Greg Allen joins us now.

Good to have you with us.

And, Greg, just to be clear, North Carolina is getting a large share or at least a share of this Hispanic advertising money, but much of it, your reporting discovered, is going to other states.

GREG ALLEN, National Public Radio: That’s right, Judy.

I mean, really, when you look at it, half of all the advertising is being spent — Spanish-language advertising is being spent in Florida really in like three markets. You have got Orlando, Miami and Tampa.

And that’s where really the lion’s share of this is going. And then you take those — put Florida aside. Denver is getting a lot of advertising, Spanish-language advertising from both campaigns. Also, Las Vegas is.

But then you have got a few other markets. And Raleigh is a very interesting case there, because there you have a market with a growing Hispanic presence, where Hispanic voters — Hispanics are maybe one out of every 10 voters in the Raleigh area. So, the question is — or at least one out of every 10 population. The Romney campaign feels that it’s important to reach them.

And it’s been doing Spanish-language ads in that market. So far, the Obama campaign hasn’t matched them. But it’s an interesting development.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, tell us what kind of ads you’re seeing the campaigns running there.

GREG ALLEN: Well, it’s interesting, because, you know, as we all know, you know, President Obama has been down this road before.

He did very well with Hispanic voters four years ago, winning something like 67 percent of the Hispanic vote nationwide.

In North Carolina, the Hispanic vote, while small, is — can be significant. That’s a state where President Obama only won by 14,000 votes four years ago. And there’s many more Hispanic voters than that.

So, I think the philosophy, the strategy for the Romney camp is to try to win some of those voters back. And they’re doing it by going on the air with advertising. A lot of the advertising is advertising introducing Mitt Romney to voters because a lot of people don’t know him, kind of biographical ads.

You have some with his son Craig, who is a fluent Spanish speaker, speaking directly to Hispanics. And that’s very important. He does that.

But then you have also got some ads where they talk about — an ad they call “The Truth,” where they try to tell what they see as the truth about President Obama, where he’s fallen short. And they’re trying to sell that kind of three-pronged message to Hispanics in Raleigh and try to win some of those votes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, this is a message that is specifically tailored to the Latino, to the Hispanic community?

GREG ALLEN: Yes. I think all of his — most of his ads are, although I have talked to some analysts who have been somewhat critical of the Romney camp for some of the ads they have put together.

For instance, the first ad they put up was an ad called “Day One,” which was just a direct translation of an English language ad they had.

As part of that ad among, the things that Gov. Romney talks about is — or the narrator does on his behalf talks about wanting to repeal the health care reform plan, Obamacare. And that, of course, is something that is actually very popular with Hispanics.

So, that’s what some people have been considered to be a misstep, the kinds of things where they don’t target an ad directly at the Hispanic community. And until they do that, then they are really not going to get it right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, is there a sense of how effective that is, this advertising the Romney camp is doing, how effective it is?

GREG ALLEN: Well, for one thing, they’re far behind — in terms of Spanish-language ads, far behind the Obama campaign. They have really only spent about half as much as the Obama campaign had.

Now, that number has ramped up dramatically in the last month. They are spending much more. They say they’re going to do a full ad blitz in the last month.

They introduced a new ad today which attacks President Obama for leaving a $6 trillion national debt they say for the grandchildren and — children and grandchildren. And they talk about — this is the Spanish-language ad — they talk about how this is going to be a debt they’re going to have to pay.

They have also come up with some ads where they talk — where you have Hispanic voters talking about why they feel disappointed in President Obama, where they feel that his promises were not kept.

So those are some of the things we’re starting to see from them, things that actually seem a little bit more artful, that some analysts have told me that they think actually are more on the mark, might have more resonance with the Hispanic community.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And just very quickly, contrast that with the message coming out from the Obama camp to the Hispanic electorate there.

GREG ALLEN: Well, the Obama campaign has enlisted Cristina Saralegui, who is known as the Hispanic Oprah. She’s a very well-known personality. She’s done a series of ads that have been very effective for President Obama.

He’s also used some Spanish-speaking volunteers talking about the issues, showing them in the community talking to other people in the community about that, this kind of one-to-one thing that really helps build trust within the Hispanic community that this is someone that we can trust.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, well, Greg Allen joining us with a look at what both campaigns are doing to reach Hispanic voters.

Thanks very much.

GREG ALLEN: My pleasure.