Saturday, September 5, 2009

News in English and Spanish

I am fiddling with data to study Latino use of news and whether it predicts turnout in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. 

The dependent variable is simple: did you register to vote, and did you actually vote?  These are self reports, fairly straightforward.

I have lots of predictor variables because there are competing theories about which model best explains participation, but these theories fail to include news media consumption.  That got me curious, then I became more so when I turned to the question of whether individuals prefer their news in English or in Spanish.

On one hand, I suspect a preference for news in English will signal integration (aculturation) into U.S. society, so you'd have greater likelihood to vote.  On the other hand, perhaps news in Spanish would be associated with greater voting as it eases the cost of getting such motivating information.

Which one?  Dunno yet.  Still wrestling with theory, but an early peak of the data suggests the former, not the latter.

Possible confounds?  Here's a few -- how long they've lived in the U.S. (if not born in U.S.), how comfortable they are with English, how much attention they pay to news from another country (Mexico, etc.),   Gotta not only control for these, have to examine how they interact with my key independent variable (language preference for news) in explaining my key dependent variable (voting).

There's a lot more to this, of course.  The literature is broad and deep, some of it specifically at Latino/Hispanic voting, a lot of it aimed at other groups, all of it rich in theoretical debate.  Is the SES model enough?  Or is a better model one that focuses on ties to the local U.S. community?  And so on and so on. 

While I work in political participation research and the role of news consumption, this one swerves a bit outside my comfort zone.  That makes it fun.

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