WASHINGTON — Democratic candidates for federal office have spent about twice as much as their Republican counterparts on Spanish-language political ads, according to a survey of 10 states with large Hispanic populations.
Overall, the percentage of campaign dollars dedicated to Spanish-language ads has barely increased from the 2008 and 2010 election cycles, even though Hispanics are viewed as a voting bloc growing in size and influence. About 4.6 percent of advertising dollars, or $16 million, went to Spanish-language political ads in the states reviewed.
Officials at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which commissioned the study from Kantar Media CMAG, described the overall spending trend as troubling because it essentially omitted millions of Hispanic voters from the nation's political conversations.
"It's a bad strategy for candidates. It's a bad message to our community and ultimately, it's unhealthy for our country," said Monica Lozano, chief executive officer at Impremedia, a media company that caters to Hispanic audiences.
In all, the Democratic candidates for federal office have spent about $9.8 million on Spanish-language ads, while Republican candidates have spent about $3.7 million.
President Barack Obama's campaign has dedicated about 9 percent of its television ad budget to Spanish-language ads, while Republican nominee Mitt Romney has dedicated about 4 percent, the report said.
The difference is most striking in House races where Democratic candidates and groups have invested about 12 percent of their ad dollars in Spanish-language ads, while Republican House campaigns have invested less than 1 percent.
In Senate races, Democratic candidates invested 3 percent of their television budget on Spanish-language advertising, versus 1 percent for GOP candidates.
One in five registered Hispanic voters say Spanish is their primary language, according to a December 2011 Pew Hispanic Center survey. Another 45 percent are bilingual and more than a third are English dominant. So, ads directed to English-speaking viewers have the potential to reach most Hispanic voters. Nevertheless, officials said that Unavision's ratings success with adult viewers demonstrates that millions of Hispanics tune in nightly to Spanish-only programming.
Lozano added that the content of Spanish-language ads is more targeted to Latino voters, and as a result, often more effective.
"The reality of it is there are literally millions of Hispanics not being reached effectively, if at all, by the majority of these campaigns," said Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
The report covers ads purchased between April 10 and Sept. 25 in ten states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Texas and Virginia.