“I give them experiments and they respond with speeches.”

Louis Pasteur

What Issues Move Hispanic Citizens?

An online PocketTrial® experiment testing the impact of conservative radio ads on Spanish-fluent citizens.

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What Issues Move Hispanic Citizens?

Americas Majority Foundation commissioned Evolving Strategies to run a PocketTrial®  online survey experiment testing six conservative messages on business taxes (partisan), abortion (partisan and non-partisan), education (partisan and non-partisan), and gun control (non-partisan). A PocketTrial®  quantifies the true impact of a message using a customized, double-blind, and fully controlled experimental design. It’s like a small-scale clinical drug trial, but it’s a message we’re testing (see full report here).

Many pundits and politicians have argued that the best way to bring Hispanic voters to the conservative side on policy and vote preferences is to emphasize social issues. Still others argue that it is better to focus on economic issues.

But what message is really most effective at increasing support for conservative issues and candidates? Is there a serious risk of backlash on conservative social or economic issues? Which arguments work best overall and with swing voters? How do these messages affect the political landscape, as well as support for Democrats and Republicans?

To answer these questions, we ran a PocketTrial® online survey experiment exposing 1,760 Spanish-fluent citizens across the country to one of six messages on core conservative issues or a Control group (fielded March 15–25, 2013).

Impact on Trust

Conservatives and Republicans have a serious trust deficit in the Hispanic community. Even among the 25 percent of our respondents who oppose abortion under any circumstances, Democrats are trusted over Republicans on the issue of abortion by 36 to 30 percent. If Republicans can’t even earn the trust of a plurality of strongly pro-life Hispanics on the issue of abortion itself, then there is a deep underlying problem that goes far beyond any single issue.

Is there any hope of shifting Hispanic voters toward support of conservative policies and trust in conservative candidates? Our results suggest there is hope, but it won’t be easy.

  • Swing voters, and conservative Democrats in particular, are the most malleable voters and should be the core targets for persuasion.
  • Among swing voters, the Partisan Abortion ad shifts trust away from Democrats toward Republicans on taxes, spending, and education.
  • Among swing voters, the Partisan Education ad shifts trust away from Democrats toward Republicans on taxes, education, and gun control.
  • Among swing voters, the Non-Partisan Abortion ad shifts trust away from Democrats toward Republicans on spending and gun control.
  • Among all voters, the Partisan Business Taxes ad shifts trust away from Democrats toward Republicans on spending.

There is little suggestion of any net backlash effect from the ads, with the exception of the Non-Partisan Education ad, which could weaken support for Republican congressional candidates. Otherwise, the trend of the impacts are generally neutral or in a positive direction.

Bottom line:

  • The Partisan Abortion ad is most effective at shifting trust from Democrats to Republicans.
  • The Partisan Education ad is also broadly effective at shifting trust from Democrats to Republicans.
  • The Non-Partisan Abortion ad has an sporadic, but potentially very powerful negative impact on trust in Democrats.

Impact on Political Support

How does trust on the issues translate into political support? Can we actually move votes with a single, 30 or 60-second ad?

In short, ¡Sí, se puede! The experimental results suggest that a brief, powerful message, can significantly shift vote preferences among Hispanic citizens. The ads that moved voters on trust also moved them on vote preferences.

  • The Partisan Abortion ad boosted support for Republican congressional candidates by 10 points among swing voters.
  • The Non-Partisan Abortion ad dragged down support for Democrats by 7 points.
  • The Partisan Education ad increased Republican support among swing voters by 8 points and appeared to sap support for Democrats by 6 points.

A successful advertising campaign targeting Hispanic voters will:

  • Deliver direct and assertive social and fiscal conservative arguments, and
  • Be clear that Democrats and liberals have harmed the community while conservatives and Republicans aim to help.

Bottom line:

  • The Partisan Abortion ad was most effective at boosting political support for Republican Congressional candidates.
  • The Non-Partisan Abortion ad was most effective at sapping support for Democratic Congressional candidates.
  • The Partisan Education ad is effective at shifting vote preferences from Democrats to Republicans.
  • Partisan appeals on abortion and education yield clear benefits in support for the GOP and trust in the Party on various social and economic issues.