Reaching Out to the Hispanic Chameleon

By Evelyn Perez-Verdia

Hispanics make up over 1.6 million of Florida’s 11.9 million active registered voters.   “Inclusion” is the latest chic word in the political scene. Republicans, Democrats, activists, almost everyone is now using the word “inclusion”. It seems that the term “Outreach” is nearly passé. While in theory this ‘outreach’ may have seemed lofty, in practice, the term often was reduced to party leaders simply picking a minimally vetted person with a Hispanic last name, giving him very little money or other resources, and simple instructions to engage the Hispanic community sometimes as a ‘check’ on a task list. But there is much more to reaching the Hispanic community than that.   I like to refer to the Hispanic Community as the Sleeping Giant. The Hispanic vote is a sleeping giant waiting for something, someone, somehow to wake him up.

Demographics:

The sleeping giant is also an unpredictable giant. This is largely due to the fact that the community is very diverse. While most of the South Florida Cuban-American community leans Republican, the I-4 Corridor Puerto Rican community and Mexican community lean Democrat. Other Hispanics have shown to be chameleons and change to the party color of the candidate that they like the most. Sadly enough, Hispanics have the same relationship to politicians as they have to their doctors…most prefer a Hispanic like them, and many times, they will vote for him or her just because of this. Statistically, the Hispanic vote is divided the following way: 39% Democrats, 30% Republicans 29% NPA and 3% other minor parties compared to the black vote where 82% are Democrats. This diversity in party affiliation is important. It adds to the degree to which Hispanics can shift the whole “enchilada” around in politics. 

Politicos:

It isn’t a secret that advisors to political parties are sitting around the table, thinking and determining how they will entice the 2.1 million Hispanics in Florida that are eligible to vote. This represents a very strong voting block, a strength that the community itself still hasn’t realized. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, among Hispanic eligible voters in Florida, 43% are naturalized U.S. citizens. This means that most likely they are primarily Spanish speakers. Hispanic eligible voters in Florida have a different Hispanic origin profile from Hispanic eligible voters nationwide. One-third (32%) of Hispanic eligible voters in Florida are of Cuban origin, 28% are of Puerto Rican origin, 9% are of Mexican origin, and 30% claim another Hispanic origin. This group comprises your ‘undecided’ voter-your chameleons. These are the ones focus groups should study. Find out what makes them tick.

Media:

The small allocation of funds for Hispanic outreach and media buying are no longer going to work. But in my experience, it is not just about the money. The Hispanic media must be respected as a line of communication to voters, and they should not be taken lightly. A relationship with the Spanish language media takes time to build.

Working as a consultant in Florida, I have always made it a priority to communicate my client’s message in Spanish and to work closely with the Hispanic media. I have seen a two term incumbent lose to an excellent candidate who understood my advice. We focused and reached out not only to Hispanics, but to all minority leaders in the community she represented…she won and the incumbent was baffled.

To really generate interest, politicians and their advisors need to authentically respect the Hispanic media, because this will naturally convert into a productive relationship in both directions.

At the end of the day, this boils down to a very simple concept: Constituents want to know, “As a politician, do you care enough to sit down and talk to me?”

 

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Should we continue sleeping?

sleeping giants

By Evelyn Perez-Verdia

There are more than a million and a half Hispanics registered to vote in Florida, accounting for 14% of the total registered voters.  However, this figure is likely low because there are many cases in which a person does not self-identify as a Hispanic.  I am a perfect example of this phenomenon.  Legally, I am not required to identify myself as Hispanic when registering to vote.  Taking into account the many people that might not identify as Hispanic for whatever reason, surely the number of voters rises to 16% or higher.

It is a fact that many of our elections are decided by a margin of 10% or less, making the Hispanic vote important enough to see it as a ‘sleeping giant’.  This population is a giant, being that it holds the power to sway an election, such as the upcoming Primary and General elections in fall 2014, when we will choose the next Florida Governor.

Should the Hispanic voters continue sleeping through these important moments?  What are we, as Hispanics doing in light of this reality?  Are we doing nothing at all, or perhaps we are only registering to vote because of the discount on our property taxes?   This is precisely what many of you are doing.  And this pleases the many people that do not want us to become citizens.  If we do become citizens, then they would revel in the fact we might choose not to participate in the process and marginalize ourselves. Or perhaps, they might realize many of us might vote without knowing any of the candidates well, or without having any real reasons to vote for them.  But the reasons are critical.  These candidates will be the ones representing you, making laws that impact everything from your childrens’ education to the amount of taxes you will be paying.  They will be those making decisions impacting the businesses that are at the heart of our economy, and the institutions that are crucial to our health care system.  They will be voting on our immigrations laws…they will decide everything!

While some would like to dissuade you from voting and say that you’re simply a drop of water in an ocean of people, that’s simply not true.  Wake up to the reality that you have the strength to unite with many around you until eventually becoming a sea of change!  Those who prefer you to stay outside of the system would prefer you to not understand how the government functions.  It is better for some this way, because then they do not need to feel accountable to you.

Many advisors to politicians analyze how strong the Hispanic vote is in their area before deciding whether or not to support the laws that the community are passionate about.  The fewer the Hispanic votes, the easier it is for many political strategists and directors to ignore these issues.  Many times, the lack of a large vote from the Hispanic community means that there is little investment in Hispanic media, making awareness of the campaigns even less than the usual.  Continue reading