Behind Univision’s efforts to get out the Latino vote

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Some 66,000 Latino Americans turn 18 every month — that means every 30 seconds a Hispanic citizen becomes eligible to vote. But do they register? The answer is often no. Only half of all eligible Latinos are registered to vote. But, efforts are underway to reverse that trend.

Univision has launched a campaign to register Latino voters. Their goal is to register three million Latino voters. Univision has huge reach – it boasts 96 percent penetration in the market when it comes to Hispanic households.

In fact, it came as a surprise to many when the Republican National Committee announced the network would not host any Republican presidential debates, especially as the Republican party has struggled to connect with the Latino population.

Add into the mix, GOP front runner Donald Trump’s incendiary comments regarding Mexicans. “When Mexico sends its people they’re not sending their best,” he said. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

While immigration is a hot button topic during this election cycle, Donald Trump is at the epicenter with threats of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and deporting 11 million documented immigrants in less than two years. Could Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric hurt his efforts to win the Republican nomination and ultimately the presidency?

In this week’s edition of  “Olney in LA” , Warren Olney talks to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and University of Southern California professor Roberto Suro about the Latino vote, Univision’s efforts to register voters and their special relationship with viewers.

“It (Univision) is very different than the way mainstream media addresses its audience. You know ethnic media traditionally speaks for its audience, is a champion for its audience. It’s a much more intimate and also a more useful relationship and one of advocacy as well,” says Roberto Suro, professor at U.S.C. Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the School of Policy, Planning and Development at the University of Southern California.

According to Suro, Univision’s main anchor Jorge Ramos is no stranger to advocacy. Suro says that when Ramos talked to President Obama in 2008 he “extracted a promise from him, to enact immigration reform in his first year. And when President Obama didn’t, reminded him relentlessly during interviews. In 2012, he said ‘Mr. President you made a promise, you broke the promise.’” Suro adds, “It’s a very aggressive form of news coverage that’s not what we see out of traditional 20th century style middle-of-the-road American journalism.”

Ramos has also gone toe-to-toe with Donald Trump. The Republican frontrunner, famously tossed the anchor from a press conference telling him to “go back to Univision.” Trump is in the middle of a $500 million dollar lawsuit with Univision over their refusal to air the Miss Universe pageants. Ramos was readmitted to the press conference later, but Trump took the opportunity to remind him of that suit, “How much am I suing Univision for right now? No, no, no. Now do you know the number? No tell me, tell me, do you know the number and do you know you’re part of the lawsuit? How much am I suing Univision for? It’s $500 million. OK, good and they’re very concerned about it, I have to tell you.”

The contentious relationship between Trump and Univision leads some to question whether the network’s effort to drive up the Hispanic vote is also driving up votes against Donald Trump and for Democrats?

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla tells KCRW, “I think there’s going to be an increased turnout for a number of reasons, it’s presidential election year regardless of Donald Trump there’s going to be an uptick in turnout.”

“Trump has exercised unexpected appeal to a great many different constituencies and sort of confounded every prediction of what to expect I think we’ve all learned to not make predictions about Trump candidacies,” adds Roberto Suro.

When it comes to California, a UC Davis report on Latino participation in the 2014 election finds a wide disparity. “Close to 40 percent of Californians are Latinos. That’s one statistic. Unfortunately as it would be for any group, the voter registration rates and voter turnout rates lag behind that,” says Secretary Padilla. Only 17.3 percent of eligible Latinos voted in 2014 according to the study.

When asked about whether mobilization efforts in the state would have any bearing on the U.S Senate race between Attorney General Kamala Harris and Representative Loretta Sanchez, Secretary Padilla says it’s too early to tell, adding a cautionary note, “as much talk as there is about the power of Latino vote some of it is realized a lot of it is still potential.”