Gang Members, Gardeners, and Maids: Media Portrayals Matter

Gang Members, Gardeners, and Maids: Media Portrayals Matter


On Wednesday, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) released a national poll conducted by Latino Decisions showing that the current way the media is covering and portraying Latino and immigrant communities is contributing to the negative stereotypes about these groups.

This survey adds to the mounting evidence that the portrayals of minorities impact how the larger population views that ethnic group. For instance in the 1990s, three-fourths of Latinos on prime time television were in crime dramas. The issue about how people of color are portrayed in the media has been a concern since the 1960s, and four decades later, the impact of media on framing perceptions is still being discussed.

This new study from NHMC and Latino Decisions found that non-Latinos tend to see Latinos in roles such as the criminal, gang member or gardener on television and in film instead of roles where Latinos are in the professions like law or medicine. More specifically, 71% of those non-Latinos surveyed said that they see Latinos as criminals or gang members, 64% of these viewers se Latinos as gardeners, while only 5% of these viewers see Latinos in professional roles such as doctors, nurses, or lawyers. Television portrayals matter because most people (66%) still get their information from network or cable news, while only 30% trust social media and online-only news sources.

Some other findings in the poll include:

  • – Conservative radion listeners and Fox News viewers were less likely to be familiar with Latinos on a personal level, but they were more likely to have anti-immigrant and anti-Latino opinions.
  • – Even people who are inclined to have positive views towards Latinos will have less favorable opinions when exposed to negative entertainment or news narratives.
  • – Media outlets still commonly use to term “illegal alien” to describe unauthorized immigrants. “Illegal alien” connotes more negative feelings than does undocumented immigrant.