The mere presence of Spanish-language local television news significantly boosts Hispanic voter turnout, according to a year-old working paper co-authored by Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Joel Waldfogel. (Posts from last year by other bloggers can be read here and here)
The study finds Hispanic voter turnout is "about 41 percent" in non-presidential elections in areas with Spanish-language local television news compared to Hispanic voter turnout of "about 30 percent" where there is no local newscast en español. The results for presidential elections is less significant but still large at 54 percent compared to "about 46 percent".
This is a working paper not a published article in a peer-reviewed academic journal but the findings are statistically robust. And they make sense, too.
Local newscasts on Telemundo and Univision typically dedicate more time to local election coverage than their English-language counterparts, in my experience. In addition, local Spanish-language stations have been running voter registration and citizenship drives for decades. The combination of heavy local election coverage combined with station-organized civics campaigns was bound to make a difference. This is the first time, though, I have read of anyone quantifying just how much of a difference. And it sure represents a big jump in Hispanic voter turnout of more than a third in non-presidential elections and a sixth in presidential elections.
That said, as the authors acknowledge, there may be other reasons which help explain the variation in voter turnout (See here for other possible explanations). They use a figure of 350,000 Hispanics as the minimum population size necessary to sustain a local Spanish-language newscast.
Definitely worth a read even if the regression analysis is heavy-going for the uninitiated. Particularly interesting in light of the discussion over Univision's citizenship drive.