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By Suzanne Gamboa

A liberal news watchdog group reported that appearances by Latinos on Sunday news shows dropped 42 percent early this year over the latter end of last year.

Media Matters for America reviewed news shows on the 18 Sundays that fell between Jan. 4 to May 3. Of the 1,172 guests on those shows, 4 percent, or 46, were Latino, according to the group's report obtained by NBC News.

That compares to about 7 percent in the 18 Sundays from Aug. 31 to Dec. 28, last year, or 79 of 1.210 guests.

"Sunday shows sharply reducing their inclusion of Hispanic voices not only does a disservice to the audience but is disconnected from the significant role this community plays in our society," said Angelo Carusone, Media Matters for America vice president.

The drop occurred despite an uptick in 2016 presidential politics and campaigns making aggressive bids for Latino voters early on in the primaries election cycle.

Emphasis on the Latino electorate has further heightened since mid-June when GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump made incendiary remarks about Mexico, Mexicans and immigrants from Latin America and drew heavy backlash from Latinos and businesses affiliated with Trump. His activities have raised questions whether the GOP can still appeal to Latinos even if not all its candidates share Trump's views.

The Media Matters analysis period ended before Trump declared his candidacy, but Carusone said "the case for inclusion (of Latinos) has never been more clear with Latinos fueling a national conversation about Donald Trump's bigotry and influencing the business community's decisions to dump Trump."

Trump finished above all other Republican candidates in a Suffolk University poll among Republicans and independents who planned to vote in their state's primary.

Latino guests also continued to be more likely on shows to talk about immigration, although in far smaller numbers than last year.

There were six Latino guests who discussed immigration on this year’s 18 Sunday shows, compared to 37 on last year's shows.

The report also found that two major Spanish-language shows devoted most of their discussions, 61, to immigration, compared to six discussions devoted to jobs and the economy, four about healthcare and three on education.

Media Matters' study last year found that 26 of 123 discussions on the Spanish-language shows were on immigration and none on health care.

There has been debate among scholars and policy makers about whether immigration has crowded out other issues of importance to the Latino community.

Related: Is Immigration Drowning Out Other Latino Issues?

Immigration is an issue with significant impact and often regarded as a "gateway" issue for judging political parties and candidates, an indicator of how the community is regarded. But in polling Latinos also often list the economy, jobs and education as issues of importance to them.

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