On Election Day, President Obama got 71 percent of the Latino vote nationally because, in the end, Latinos preferred his message over Mitt Romney’s. But how Latinos got that message — the relentless call to register, to vote, to participate — was as important as the message itself: Hispanic television and grass-roots groups working together generated a civic campaign they called Ya Es Hora. Now Is the Time.
In countless households, Latinos tuned their television sets to Univision and heard Jorge Ramos, the host of “Al Punto,” the Spanish version of “Meet the Press,” discuss the candidates’ positions on issues critical to them. They switched on Spanish-language radio and heard myriad reasons their vote could spur change.
And if voters in some battleground areas needed a ride to the polls, television and radio stations owned by Entravision Communications, Univision’s largest affiliate, offered those, too.
Univision, which reaches 96 percent of all Hispanic households; Telemundo, the second-largest network; and their affiliates ran information about the election and the issues regularly. And not just on newscasts, but also on their most popular news programs. They sponsored hundreds of public service announcements, giving Latinos local information on where to register and vote. The effort, by and large, was nonpartisan.
“I invite you to join me, so they can’t say Latinos don’t care what happens to this country,” Natalie Perez, a Univision news anchor for WVEA-TV in the Tampa Bay area, said in a public service announcement, as she asked viewers to join her at a local voter registration drive.
The television stations even staffed phone banks so people could inquire about finding their precincts or taking the correct form of identification.
“It played a tremendous role,” said Ben Monterroso, the executive director of Mi Familia Vota, a large nonpartisan voter education group that worked closely this year with the networks. “The Spanish media became one of the most informative instruments in our community.”
“We can have as many ground troops as we want knocking on doors; in one hour, I talk to 12 people maximum,” he added. “You know what 30 minutes on TV does? They were giving us not only the time, but the prime time, and the personalities.”
This was not the first time that Spanish-language media has gotten involved in a civic cause. Beginning in 2006, the networks and advocacy groups rolled out similar smaller efforts to encourage citizenship and explain the importance of the census.
But this year the multifront strategy, which included familiar faces at voter registration tables and knocks at the door from volunteers, jelled and forced a tipping point, said organizers, media executives and Obama campaign officials. An estimated 12.5 million Latinos voted in 2012, 1.8 million more than in 2008.
“This was not just a contest between two candidates, but a chance for a community to gain respect,” said Eliseo Medina, the secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union and the highest-ranking Latino labor leader in the country. The message, he said, was simple: “Our community is in crisis. We are being disrespected. We are not helpless. We can help ourselves by voting. You are representing your community.”
It resonated, Mr. Medina said. Democrats made gains even among more Republican-minded Latinos, like Cuban-Americans in Miami.