NHMC Releases Findings About Negative Media Portrayals of Latinos and Immigrants

Sep 12, 2012
12:45 PM

This morning in Washington, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) released the results of a national poll "showing that media portrayals of Latinos and immigrants are fueling rampant negative stereotypes among the general population that are diminishing perceptions of these groups throughout the United States."

The full report can be downloaded here. The poll, which was conducted by Latino Decisions and NHMC was a two-part project that examined "the impact of media narratives and stereotypes of immigrants and Latinos on non-Latino opinions and attitudes towards Latinos and immigrants." The first part was a national survey of 900 non-Latino respondents that contained over 90 questions, while the second part was an online survey that included 3,000 non-Latino respondents "who registered their opinions about Latinos and immigrants after watching video clips, reading articles, or listening to audio clips about them."

Here are some key trends and findings from the report's executive summary:

1. News and entertainment media have a strong influence on non-Latino perceptions about Latinos and immigrants.

2. Most people attribute a mix of both positive and negative stereotypes to Latinos and immigrants.

3. Media portrayals of Latinos and immigrants can diminish or exacerbate stereotypically negative opinions about them.

  • First-hand knowledge of Latinos is positively related to evaluations. Those with more direct interaction with—or knowledge of—Hispanics hold more positive views of the group and its members. Those holding very negative views are often those with little direct exposure to Hispanic Americans. 
  • “Latino” or “Hispanic” on the one hand, and the issue of illegal immigration on the other, are highly associated. On average, these non-­Hispanic respondents estimated that 35.6% of all Latinos were “illegal.” Over 17% of respondents believed more than half of all Hispanics are illegal, while another 13.3% estimate exactly half are undocumented. Taken together, over 30% of respondents believed a majority of Hispanics (50% or greater) were undocumented. 
  • Latinos are held in higher regard than unauthorized immigrants but the language matters. Even the use of the term “illegal alien” has measurable effects when compared with undocumented immigrant. While 49% of respondents offer a “cold” rating of undocumented, 58% rate “illegal aliens” coldly. 
  • Stereotypes people believe to be true about immigrants and Latinos reflect the images, characters, and stories they commonly encounter in news, television, film, and radio programming. 
  • Specifically, non-­Latinos report seeing Latinos in stereotypically negative or subordinate roles (gardeners, maids, dropouts, and criminals) most often in television and film. 
  • People exposed to negative entertainment or news narratives about Latinos and/or immigrants hold the most unfavorable and hostile views about both groups.
  • People exposed to positive news or entertainment stories about Latinos and/or immigrants hold the most favorable opinions about both groups.
  • Negative portrayals of Latinos and immigrants are pervasive in news and entertainment media. Consequently, non-­Latinos commonly believe many negative stereotypes about these groups are true.
  • The impact of media framing on opinions and attitudes varies according to individual factors, especially age and familiarity with Latinos.
  • Despite the splintering of media outlets across providers and types of media, the network news of the three broadcast English-language news divisions remains the most powerful source of information to the American public, and websites maintained by those same networks also enjoy significant influence.
  • There are instances where media consumer groups (i.e. FOX, MSNBC) exhibit even more dramatic differences than ideological or partisan distinctions create.
  • There are consistent differences when evaluating non-­Latino opinions by news sources. Conservative radio and Fox News program viewers are less familiar and less favorable toward Latinos and immigrants on nearly every measure included in the survey.
  • Even those most disposed to positive opinions about Latinos (e.g. younger age cohorts, those more familiar with Latinos, etc.) have less favorable opinions when exposed to negative entertainment or news media narratives.

You can download the FULL REPORT here.