Clinton Went Too Negative, Says Democratic Latino Voter Group

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The former Demoratic presidential candidate
The former Demoratic presidential candidate Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
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The Clinton campaign may have gone too negative against Donald Trump to compel young voters to go to the polls. That's what Center for Community Change Action, a group focused on Latino voter outreach in key states this election, suggests. The organization, like so many others that hoped to help Hillary Clinton win, is just beginning to evaluate election data to determine what worked and what didn't.

"It was a very negative election and there was not anything that inspired them," said Jeff Parcher, director of communications at CCC Action, of millennial voters. The organization employed data from Latino engagement research conducted by ASO Communication and funded by Democracy Alliance, a network of progressive donors, to inform its approach to door-to-door Latino voter outreach. The group focused its efforts on communicating with infrequent, often-young Latino voters in Florida, Nevada and Colorado, among the states with the highest Latino populations.

"Particularly with millennials, you have to have a positive message. ... People need a vision and hope to turn out for her," he said of Secretary Clinton, acknowledging that it was difficult in "this toxic media environment" for the Clinton campaign to get its positive messages through to voters.

CCC Action learned early on in the election season that leading conversations with an anti-Trump message was a faulty approach. When the group began testing scripts its canvassers asked "Who are you supporting and why?" Later, based on the Latino engagement research, the organization altered its approach and asked people what issues they care about, increasing their level of commitment to vote for Secretary Clinton from 50% to around 65%, Mr. Parcher told Ad Age before the election.

Solid numbers on Latino voter turnout aren't available yet, though research firm Latino Decisions argues that exit polls incorrectly suggested that more Latino voters supported Mr. Trump than expected. The company reported that its own poll of 5,600 "extremely high propensity Latino voters" right before the election showed that 79% of Latino voters supported Secretary Clinton, 18% supported Mr. Trump, and 3% supported other candidates.

"The conclusion will be the Latino vote was engaged above the levels we had before [but] not the levels we hoped for," said Mr. Parcher.

The numbers on millennial voters aren't clear yet, either, though Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement data based on exit polls shows that 55% of 18-to-29-year-olds voted Democrat this election compared with 60% in 2012, while support for Republicans among these young voters remained the same at 37%. This time around, a larger slice of that young electorate voted for third-party candidates -- 8% this year compared with 3% in 2012.

So, while it's difficult just a week after the election to know exactly what percentage of eligible millennials turned up at the polls or voted early, signs point to an overall decline in voting among young people.

However, Mr. Parcher said CCC Action's internal numbers indicate that its positive, issue-based approach to engaging younger Latino voters worked well. He noted that the tactic "is validated based upon the data from our program" in Colorado, where the group helped Secretary Clinton defeat Mr. Trump, and in Nevada, where she also won, and where CCC Action backed Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, who won her closely watched Senate race.

"This is a model our movement on our side has to replicate with other demographics," said Mr. Parcher. "This is a model that we should have had operating in Detroit," or Philadelphia, he continued. Mr. Trump won by very slim margins in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

"One of the lessons is, what if Hillary had spent a little less on TV and more on field operations in a couple places?"