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Professor: Political Parties More Savvy About Latino Demographic

Contact: Amy Patterson Neubert, Purdue News Service, 765-494-9723,; Stacey Connaughton, 765-494-9107,; Purdue College of Liberal Arts


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Nov. 6 /Standard Newswire/ -- Latino voters could play a deciding role in some midterm elections, says a Purdue University expert.


"There are some states where Latino voters may have a great influence in the races for seats in the House and Senate," says Stacey Connaughton, an assistant professor of communication who studies how political parties tailor campaign messages to Latinos. "Indiana is one state where the Latino population continues to grow. If mobilized to go to the polls, Latinos may have an impact on future campaigns and elections at the local, state and national levels."


"We're certainly seeing Latino organizations engaging in mobilization efforts, and as the midterm election approaches, we're starting to see more coalition-building with other constituency groups," she says.


Historically, Latinos' voting behaviors favored the Democratic Party, with the exception of Cuban-Americans who tended to vote for Republicans. But in the last 20 years, there has been a growing sense that the Democratic Party takes the Latino vote for granted and that the Latino vote is up for grabs, Connaughton says. In the 2004 presidential election, many Latinos - about 40 percent - voted for Republican President George W. Bush, Connaughton says.


"When Democrats targeted the Latino demographic in 2004, they talked more about values such as family and faith in their television ads directed at Latinos," Connaughton says. "The Republicans talked more about issues, such as health care and education. Although we don't know if these differences had a direct impact on voters' behaviors, it was amazing how many issues the Republicans packed into their Latino ads. Especially because since 1980 the GOP had talked primarily about values they believe they share with Latinos, such as family and faith."


Connaughton says the Democrats learned from previous campaigns.


For example, the New Democratic Network, a progressive group within the Democratic Party, sponsored $2 million worth of political advertisements in Spanish during soccer's World Cup earlier this year, Connaughton says.


"The Republicans are still doing a good job cultivating Latino voters and supporting Latino candidates," she says. "After the 2004 election I would have said the Democrats need to focus more systematically on Latinos, and the party is starting to do just that."


"Plus, the GOP has been a bit stronger in supporting and marketing its platform to Latinos at the grassroots level. Now it seems the Democrats are starting to realize this importance, especially as the Latino population continues to grow. The potential for Latinos' influence in America is great, and the parties recognize that."