Depending on which exit poll you believe, President Obama won 71% or 75% of the Hispanic vote. Either way it was a major demographic force comprising 10% of the electorate, which practically guaranteed his reelection.
But politics aside, there is an even greater Hispanic force at work in our nation – one which makes every day Election Day, and that is when Hispanics vote with their wallets as consumers.
Recently I read a Nielsen Company report entitled State of the Hispanic Consumer: The Hispanic Market Imperative
Nielsen, although known more for its TV ratings, is also a marketing firm that watches and reports on consumer behavior. Nielsen’s Hispanic consumer marketing report released this past April makes a concluding statement which aging baby boomers like myself might find somewhat disturbing because it conflicts with a concept that we learned in school long ago; a rather unique concept that helped make America into a great nation.
Here are the six topic statements of the report. Can you guess which one I find disturbing?
- Latinos are a fundamental component to business success, and not a passing niche on the sidelines.
- Rapid Latino population growth will persist, even if immigration is completely halted.
- Latinos have amassed significant buying power, despite perceptions to the contrary.
- Hispanics are the largest immigrant group to exhibit significant culture sustainability and are not disappearing into the American melting pot.
- Technology and media use do not mirror the general market but have distinct patterns due to language, culture, and ownership dynamics.
- Latinos exhibit distinct product consumption patterns and are not buying in ways that are the same as the total market.
The answer is the fourth bullet point which dispenses with a key “ingredient” that gives “the American melting pot” its flavor and strength. This ingredient is known to have enabled our nation to become the light of the world and we call it assimilation.
According to Nielsen, since assimilation is not occurring among our largest and fasting growing demographic group, I will take the liberty to re-word that fourth statement with a question that reads:
If “Hispanics are the largest immigrant group to exhibit significant culture sustainability and are not disappearing into the American melting pot” is our nation at risk of being culturally fractured and ultimately weakened?
The answer is yet to be determined since Hispanic culture’s “not disappearing into the American melting pot” is a fundamental change and one that this nation has never experienced on such a massive scale, but is about to.
From the beginning, an integral part of our nation’s history was the immigrant story. There was a joy about “coming to America” and part of that joy (and risk) was voluntarily surrendering aspects of your old heritage (especially your native language) into a great “melting pot” which ultimately forged the strong can do attitude of the “American Way.” This attitude was embraced by all and sustained our nation through both difficult and prosperous times.
Now, is Nielsen’s research stating that Hispanics are exhibiting “significant cultural sustainability” a politically correct way of saying Hispanics are resisting “Americanization” more than the other large ethic groups that once came to our shores?
Maybe so, but that hardly matters to marketing or political consultants who after reading this Nielsen Report must find ways to adapt their businesses or candidates to a “less melted” America. If not they run the risk of losing market share, going out of business or losing elections due to major demographic changes happening in the Hispanic community that no business, candidate or party can ignore.
For over the last 20 years all non-Hispanic Americans have embraced Hispanics as part of our new “American Way,” and now that embrace will grow even stronger as 50,000 Hispanic teenagers turn 18 every month for the next two decades.
The Nielsen Report makes something of an understatement by concluding that this demographic bulge will result in a “future American culture with a strong Hispanic flavor.”
But it is my hope that this “strong Hispanic flavor” will still manage to be uniquely American.