Latinos' Choices in News Media Are Shaping Their Views of Their Communities, the Nation and the World

Latinos' Choices in News Media Are Shaping Their Views of Their Communities, the Nation and the World

Getting the news could be the single most extensive cross-cultural experience for the Hispanic population in America, according to a report issued today by the Pew Hispanic Center. A growing number of Hispanics switch between English and Spanish to get the news. Rather than two audiences sharply segmented by language, the survey shows that many more Latinos get at least some of their news in both English and Spanish than in just one language or the other.

Even fluent English speakers rely on Spanish language media to get news from Latin America and about Hispanic communities in the United States, and half of Latinos who were born abroad get at least some news in English. 

However, in one key segment of the Hispanic population­--likely voters in U.S. election--the English-language media is the dominant source of news. More than half of Latino voters, (53 percent) get all their news in English and 40 percent gets news from media in both languages while only 6 percent of likely voters get all their news in Spanish. 

The survey's results indicate that exposure to English-language news media influences the views of Latinos born abroad on a wide range of topics. Compared to immigrants who get their news in Spanish, they have less favorable views of undocumented immigrants, are more skeptical of Bush Administration policies in Iraq and are less trusting of news organizations. 

Moreover, Latinos have strong views about the roles the news media play in society. The vast majority of Latinos, including those who only get news in English, view the Spanish-language media as an important institution for the economic and political development of the Hispanic population. Meanwhile, Latinos are broadly concerned that the English-language media contribute to a negative image of Latinos among English-speaking Americans. 

“How you get your news shapes how you see the world,” said Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center. “For foreign-born Latinos that simple verity has powerful and complex consequences.” 

These findings are based on the results of a telephone survey of 1,316 Latinos in a nationally representative sample. Interviewing took place from February 11 to March 11, 2004. Results have a margin of error of +/- 3.42 percent. The survey was conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center, a non-partisan research organization, which is a project of the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The survey was supported with a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. 

Some of the report's key findings include:  

  • Regardless of nativity, education, income, or language preferences, an overwhelming majority of Latinos--78 percent of the population--believes that the Spanish-language news media are very important to the economic and political development of the Hispanic population. 
  • Nearly half of all Latinos (44 percent) believe the English-language media contribute to a negative image of the Hispanic population among English-speaking Americans. This concern is highest among those Latinos who have the greatest exposures to these media, the segment that gets all its news in English. 
  • A considerably larger number of Latinos getting news in Spanish (70 percent) or in both languages (68 percent) said they were aware that President Bush had recently announced a proposal on immigration compared to those in the English category (53 percent). Of those who said they were aware of the proposal, the foreign born were more supportive (36 percent) than the native born (20 percent). 
  • Foreign born Latinos give President Bush higher approval ratings (59 percent) than the native born (42 percent). Views are less polarized within the Latino population when it comes to the upcoming election as all segments say they would favor Sen. John Kerry over the incumbent. However, preferences on the race among likely Latino voters (Bush 39 percent vs. Kerry 52 percent) show that Kerry is running weaker than Democratic candidates in several recent presidential elections who have captured about two-thirds of the Latino vote. 
  • Native-born Latinos are more skeptical of Bush Administration policies in Iraq than the foreign born. For example, 59 percent of the native born think the Administration deliberately misled the public about the threat in Iraq before the war began compared to 44 percent of the foreign born. Choices in news media accentuate this difference. Those who get their news only in Spanish are the least skeptical segment of the population. 
  • Interest in major topics in the news varies considerably by language group substantially reflecting the mix of persons born in the United States and abroad in each group. For example, 77 percent of the English audience follows news of the U.S. presidential election closely compared to 51 percent of the Spanish audience. In contrast, 72 percent of Spanish consumers follow news from their country of origins closely compared to only 31 percent of the English audience. 
  • Asked which media they get any news from on an average weekday, 88 percent of Latinos cited network television, 82 percent local television, 52 percent newspapers, 58 percent radio and 29 percent the Internet. With the exception of radio, which shows a much higher audience share, these findings generally mirror results found in the general population.

However, there is considerable variation among Latinos by their language preferences: 

  • Network television: The three language-preference groups split this audience, which includes broadcast and cable networks, evenly into thirds. The Spanish-only share of the audience for network television news is more competitive with the English-only share than with any other source of news. 
  • Local television news: Among those who switch languages in their overall choice of news there is a small but notable preference for English local television broadcasts. Combined with a somewhat lower viewership in the Spanish category, this produces a larger share of this audience that only watches English news programming (40 percent) compared to the Spanish-only audience (29 percent) and the language switchers (31 percent). The English-only audience for local television news is stronger than the other language categories among young adults, ages 18 to 29, a key demographic segment for advertising. 
  • Newspapers: English enjoys a distinct advantage in the print news audience. The share of Latino newspaper readers that gets news only from publications in English is three times larger (62 percent) than the share reading Spanish-language papers (21 percent). By a wide margin Latinos who get all their news in English give higher ratings to newspapers for being the most informative medium (16 percent) compared to Latinos who get all their news in Spanish (3 percent) and for giving greater service to Hispanics (15 percent vs. 1 percent). 
  • Radio: This medium is exceptionally popular among Latinos with 58 percent of adults saying they get some news on average weekday from radio. This audience tilts to a preference for English (43 percent) compared to the share of radio listeners who get all their news in Spanish (34 percent) or from both languages (23 percent). Nonetheless, within the radio audience the share of the foreign born (56 percent) that gets all its news in Spanish is larger than for any other medium. 
  • The Internet: Only 29 percent of the adult Hispanic population gets news on the Web and three-quarters of them get all their news off the Web in English. Only 20 percent of foreign born Latinos report getting news from the Internet compared to 44 percent of the native born.

The Pew Hispanic Center was founded in 2001. Its mission is to improve understanding of the U.S. Hispanic population and to chronicle Latinos' growing impact on the entire nation