ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Latino voters dramatically increased their participation in this election, and they voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. As NPR's Ina Jaffe reports, that made a difference in some western states.
INA JAFFE: Outreach to Latino voters has been intense over the past year. Arguably, no organization poured more into it than the Obama campaign, which pledged to spend $20 million on field organizing and paid media, like this television spot.
(Soundbite of commercial in Spanish)
JAFFE: The role of Spanish-language media in this election was unprecedented, says Andres Ramirez, vice president of Hispanic programs for NDN, a Democratic think tank.
Mr. ANDRES RAMIREZ (Vice-President of Hispanic Program, NDN): They took it upon themselves to increase their coverage of the elections and the importance of participating politically. They ran millions of dollars of PSAs to encourage Hispanics to register to vote and to participate.
JAFFE: Democrats targeted three western states they lost narrowly four years ago, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico. And in all of them, Latino participation increased dramatically, says Ramirez.
Mr. RAMIREZ: In 2004, Hispanics accounted for about eight percent of total turnout in Colorado. In 2008, they accounted for 17 percent. In Nevada, we saw turnout increase to 16 percent in 2008. That is up from 10 percent in 2004. And in New Mexico, it went from 31 percent to 41 percent.
JAFFE: A wide variety of organizations reached out to Latino voters. In Las Vegas, 20-year-old carpenter Jose Hernandez (ph) says he heard from his union local.
Mr. JOSE HERNANDEZ: They actually, you know, spoke to us and, you know, go vote and also held like early voting and stuff like that.
JAFFE: 27 percent of Latino voters were from union households, according to exit polls. 69 percent opposed the war in Iraq, which was the big issue for Hernandez.
Mr. HERNANDEZ: I got family in Iraq, and I just don't want to see it anymore.
JAFFE: Even in Florida, where Hispanic voters have traditionally backed Republicans, a majority supported Obama according to Arturo Vargas, head of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials. He says Latinos focus on their interests, not the party.
Mr. ARTURO VARGAS (Head, National Association of Latino Elected Officials): The economy, the war in Iraq, access to healthcare, the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
JAFFE: He says that independent spirit, along with ballot-box clout, will make certain that outreach to Latino voters becomes a permanent part of presidential campaigns. Ina Jaffe, NPR News, Las Vegas.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.