The Obama Bias in Hispanic Media: How Conservatives Can Reach Latinos

Alejandro Chafuen
By Alejandro Chafuen | April 18, 2014 | 9:49 AM EDT

Conservative organizations and free-market think tanks continue to try and reach the growing Latino population. The Media Research Center (MRC), the conservative content analysis organization, recently entered the market with the MRC Latino project.

Ken Oliver-Méndez, director of MRC Latino, described the results of their first study by reporting, "what we found is a pronounced leftward tilt in both networks' reporting, particularly in coverage of U.S. domestic news. As it stands now, Democratic, left-leaning sources consistently dominate the narrative in these networks' coverage of domestic issues. On the international front, however, both networks did a better job of maintaining a critical or balanced stance, as is the journalistic norm."

Promoting free enterprise in the Latino community through the main TV networks is a difficult task. Univision and Telemundo show a strong bias in favor of the policies of President Obama. In the case of Obamacare, there was a 5 to 1 bias in the news reporting in favor of the law. At a recent program highlighting the MRC study, its founder and president Brent Bozell placed some of the blame outside the networks: "The conservative movement needs to make a stronger effort to constructively engage with Spanish-language media, and the networks must allow all major sides of a debate to speak in news stories, not just voices that management and staff may sympathize with." It takes two to tango. Producers for Hispanic media also state that it is difficult for them to find conservative free market voices.

MRC's focus on Obamacare is understandable. A few weeks ago, the Pew Research Center released a new survey showing that support for the law was eroding among Hispanics. Writing for Pew, Jens Manuel Krogstad and Seth Motel state, "today, as many Hispanics approve as disapprove (47 percent to 47 percent) of the new health care law." Six months ago, the Hispanic approval rate was 61 percent. Krogstad and Motel continue saying, "During the same time period, Obama's job approval rating has slipped 15 points among Hispanics." His approval ratings among Hispanics are down from 63 percent in September 2013 to 48 percent in March. To put this in perspective, Obama's approval ratings in the general public were 44 percent approval and 41 percent approval of Obamacare during the same time period.

Think tanks paint a clear picture. Research by think tanks help one to understand how government policies affect Latinos. Robert Graboyes, of Mercatus, and Mario Villareal, of the Institute for Humane Studies, explained how Medicaid. The piece appeared first in the "USAHispanic," a new online newspaper.

The fastest growing conservative free market outreach effort today is the Libre Imitative. It tripled its Twitter followers in one year, passing 5,000. Libre is going beyond traditional think tank work and is developing a multi-faceted strategy focusing on the matters that are of daily concern for Latinos including: jobs, immigration and prayer. Libre is gaining ground on the much older, and more established, National Council of La Raza which has over 30,000 Twitter followers. La Raza was founded in 1968 and has a budget of approximately $40 million.

Increased globalization and new technologies also provide new ways of reaching Hispanics. Most immigrants today remain connected to their native countries through various social media platforms. They can even watch their favorite sporting events and TV programs online. Technology has helped fuel some improvements in news coverage, as MRC reported, "Univision and Telemundo provided heavy coverage of the unrest in Venezuela, and their coverage of Venezuela's socialist government was decidedly critical." U.S. Latinos can follow the Twitter feeds and blogs of several free-market think tanks in Latin America.

Goldwater Institute in Arizona was one of the first think tanks to launch an effort to reach Latinos, and the first to realize that translating their publications into Spanish was not enough. After studying the impact of its 2007 Hispanic website, the institute found that it was not a good use of resources to translate its material into Spanish. The institute's primary audience is policymakers, and they do their work in English. Darcy Olsen, president of Goldwater stated, "Most of Arizona's Spanish language papers are focused on bread and butter issues, not policy, so it didn't make sense to continue. However, for grassroots or groups who work directly with first generation immigrants, translating is no doubt essential."

Champions of free markets need to continue their efforts to understand the way in which diverse segments of the Latino community receive news and analysis. They also need to try to reach the very diverse Hispanic community at different levels with convincing messages that a free economy is the best road to prosperity. But words will need to be accompanied by action and engagement at the community level, not so much by think tanks, but by churches, clubs, and support groups.

Editor's Note: Alejandro Chafuen is the president of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. His column was initially published in Forbes.