[lg policy] Spanish Language Political Ads Sometimes Alienate English Speakers

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Mon Nov 5 11:51:33 EST 2018

Spanish Language Political Ads Sometimes Alienate English Speakers

For Spanish speakers, ad content includes less information about policy,
and more about religion and family values.

By Laura RiceNovember 2, 2018 10:51 am| Business & Your Money
<https://www.texasstandard.org/stories/categories/business/>, Government &


Julia Reihs/KUT

Beto O'Rourke speaks at the Texas State Capitol in August at the Rise Up
rally for criminal justice reform.

As Election Day gets closer, the airwaves are getting more crowded with
political ads. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and his challenger, Congressman Beto
O’Rourke, in particular, have raised lots of money in their campaigns and
are now spending it on TV and radio.

Austin-based Marketplace Reporter Andy Uhler
<https://www.marketplace.org/people/andy-uhler> noticed some of the ads
in English and Spanish are complicated by more than the issue of

“What we’re seeing is this trend of ebb and flow in terms of who you think
you’re getting to vote for you,” Uhler says. “…If you’re Beto O’Rourke and
you’re depending on that Hispanic vote, then you’re probably going to
invest a lot of money into it.”

Uhler spoke with Marisa Abrajano
a political science professor at the University of California San Diego.
She said political ads in English tend to include more policy topics such
as economic growth, taxes and health care, while Spanish ads are driven by
emotion and topics like religion and family values.

“If you design Spanish language ads that omit much more policy content than
English language ads, then Spanish speaking voters are not getting the same
kind of information that monolingual English language folks get,” Abrajano

The data on who speaks Spanish in neighborhoods and cities is too broad and
doesn’t allow candidates to zero in on what specific households are
speaking Spanish, Uhler says.

“You can have mailers, but you’re not going to individually look at who is
speaking Spanish and how to advertise to them,” Uhler says. “I spoke to
another researcher at Yale, Alex Coppock, he told me that the consequences
for hitting somebody with an ad that doesn’t appeal to them in their
language of choice, even if you’re bilingual, [has] huge negative

18 percent of monolingual English speakers will have a more negative
reaction to Spanish ads.

“It could be that you kind of bristle if you hear an ad in Spanish,” Uhler
says. “You want it to appeal to your culture if you’re a monolingual
English-speaker. We don’t really have the why as to that negative reaction.”

*Written by Brooke Vincent.*

 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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