How Election 2020 Missed the Mark on Reaching Hispanic Voters | Refuel Agency

Even amid a global pandemic (or perhaps because of it), American voters turned out in record numbers to vote in the 2020 election. One thing that we can all agree on is that this has been an unprecedented year, full of unexpected twists and turns. And one of those turns? While political strategists anticipated an overwhelming percentage of Latino votes to go to Vice President Joe Biden, election day showed that Trump won up to 36% of the vote. 

So what’s to blame for the gap between expectation and reality? We believe that political advertisers failed to effectively reach and influence the record number of Hispanic voters in the 2020 election partly because they neglected a highly  influential media for this audience: print newspapers. And how do we know? We’ve worked directly with nearly every Hispanic newspaper in the country for over 30 years, placing political ads for candidates and parties on both sides of the aisle. 

Let’s dive in. 

How Important Was the Hispanic Vote to the 2020 Election?

Credit: Russell Contreras/Associated Press

The Hispanic vote was sought-after long before 2020’s election. Recognition of the powerful Latino voting bloc began in 1960 with Kennedy’s presidential campaign, in which Kennedy coined the unifying phrase “Viva Kennedy!”, from which stemmed the Viva Kennedy Clubs, and earned the vote of key Latino groups in states like Texas and Illinois. 

But this voting bloc has never been more vital to the success of a political campaign than it was in the 2020 election. This was the first election in which eligible Hispanic voters outnumbered any other minority voters. “Latino voters are part of the youngest and fastest growing electorate in the us. In 2020, a record 32 million are eligible to vote,” BBC reports. 

However, according to Pew Research, Hispanic voter turnout has historically lagged behind that of other minority groups. Hispanic voters have been of increased interest to political candidates, but were these political advertising campaigns actually able to understand, reach, and persuade Hispanic voters?

The discrepancy between predicted numbers and voting results, like Vice President Joe Biden’s worse-than-expected performance in the presidential election among Latino voters in Florida and Texas, indicate that no, these political campaigns fell flat. 

And, as long-time experts in effectively reaching the Hispanic population in the United States, we know why. 

The Power of Print for Reaching Hispanic Voters

In a digital era, campaign strategists rely heavily on digital and broadcast media to target American voters. However, as we’ve discussed before, print advertising is highly trusted by Hispanic voters yet an incredibly underutilized media outlet by political campaigns. Our research shows that Hispanic voters are 18% more likely to be interested in newspapers than the general population. For Hispanic readers, print media conveys a certain permanence, significance, and trustworthiness that is important to the multicultural audience. 

Over our 30 years of reaching Hispanic audiences through print media advertising, our research has found that print media has a powerful impact with Hispanic audiences. Experts know that most media consumed by this audience are newspapers. Print media is the most trusted source of news by the Hispanic community of all ages. 

Read next: The Power of Print Advertisement in Political Advertising

Read Between the Lines: Print Media Was Neglected in the 2020 Election

Incredibly underutilized, in fact. We called up 30 of our multicultural print publishers in a dozen key battleground states right before election day to get their take on how their publications were utilized by political advertisers. While these publications reported typical levels of local political spending, they found very tepid national advertising utilization for congress and the presidential political race. While Biden made a stronger appearance than Trump, even Biden was a no-show in 66% of the leading Hispanic publications we spoke with. And not only were many publications overlooked, but in the publications that were utilized, ad size and frequency were very small. 

And it doesn’t stop there. We found an 86% drop in political advertising spending for the 2020 election compared to the 2016 election.

Especially in a time with digital advertising over-saturation and pre-election political advertisement monitoring, print media has the power to cut through the noise, reach key audiences effectively, and impart a sense of permanence and trust to voters. 

Final Thoughts

The cost of print media is relatively low compared to other broadcast and online options, and the ROI is typically high when we track other brand advertising in print media. We suspect print advertising will be a much larger focus in 2021. From our vantage point it appears 2020 was a huge missed opportunity for democrats and republicans, at both  the national and state levels.

Christina OToole

Christina is a data-driven, full stack marketer with over 20 years success leading marketing in higher education, tech and publishing industries. She lead enrollment marketing programs for the both the University of California, Santa Barbara and UC San Diego continuing education divisions. Christina has developed hundreds of marketing campaigns and built all facets of programs including lifecycle journeys, creative direction and lead generation.