Are Texas Latinos like Latinos elsewhere or not?

Latino Decisions bemoans a disconnect between its poll numbers for Latino voters and what it’s seeing in the crosstabs of other recent national polls.

In 1998 Harry Pachon and Rudy de la Garza wrote a report for the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute titled “Why Pollsters Missed the Latino Vote – Again!” in which they argued that polls across California failed to accurately account for Latino voters in their samples, and that pre-election polls statewide were fraught with errors as a result.  Pachon and de la Garza argued that “mainstream” pollsters failed to account for Latinos for three primary reasons: 1) their sample sizes of Latinos were far too small; 2) their Latinos samples were not representative of the Latino population within the state; and 3) they were not interviewing Latinos in Spanish at the correct proportions.  THIS WAS 14 YEARS AGO (yes I am screaming).

In 2010 Gary Segura and I wrote that not much had changed and polls continued to mis-represent the Latino vote.  It is now well-known that polls in Nevada had small, unrepresentative and biased samples of Latinos, leading them to entirely miss Harry Reid’s 5-point lead over Sharron Angle.  Two weeks ago, Nate Silver wrote at 538 that some polls seem to be continuing the same mistakes and under-counting and mis-counting Latino voters, which he had originally picked up, and wrote about the day after the 2010 midterms.  Around the same time some new polls started appearing in states like Nevada and Florida with bizarre data for Latino voters – Obama only had an 8 point lead among Nevada Latinos, and Romney was actually ahead among Latinos in Florida.  Really?


And now the worst offenders might be the newest batch of national polls are attempting to estimate the national Obama-Romney horse race numbers. Monday October 22, Monmouth University released a poll in which Romney leads Obama 48% to 45%. Among Latinos, they report Obama leads by just 6 points – 48% to 42%.  These numbers are such extreme outliers that even Romney campaign surrogates would have a hard time believing them.  While Monmouth is the most recent, there have been many national polls with equally faulty numbers among Latinos.

Keep that 48 to 42 number in your head and let’s compare across a variety of recent polls of Latino voters.  As a matter of self-interest, we’ll start with four recent impreMedia-Latino Decisions tracking polls in October.  The last four polls released by IM/LD have found the Latino vote nationally at 71-20; 67-23; 72-20; 73-21.  Don’t like those? NBC/Telemundo have released two polls in October of Latinos, putting the race at 70-25, and 70-20 just before that. And then there was the Pew Hispanic Center poll 10 days ago which had Obama 69-21 over Romney, and just before that CNN did a poll of Latinos putting the national vote at 70-25.  Okay – that’s eight national polls of Latino voters in the month of October and the average across all eight is 70.3% for Obama to 21.9% for Romney.

They’re currently predicting a three to one margin among Latino voters for Obama, which would significantly exceed his 2008 performance. While it should be noted that not everyone buys their numbers, it has also been the case that traditional pollsters blew it in Nevada in 2010 by underestimating the Latino vote. As always, we’ll get an objective answer to this question soon enough.

What I want to know, of course, is how will this affect Texas? Specifically, if it’s the case that the LD folks are right, are the pollsters here making the same mistake? Here’s a summary of the most recent Texas polls, with numbers given for the subsample of Latino respondents:

Pollster Obama Romney ====================================== Latino Decisions Avg 70 22 YouGov 61 35 Lyceum 62 32 Wilson Perkins 66 32

These numbers are off from the LD polling average, but not that far off. It’s plausible that they are accurate, but given the very small sample sizes it’s also plausible that they are understating Obama’s support here in Texas. The data is just very noisy and hard to get a handle on. The 2008 numbers in Texas quite clearly show that Obama underperformed the Democratic average in heavily Latino areas. Some of that might have been lingering love for Hillary Clinton, but regardless the Republican Party, both nationally and in Texas, has done a lot to alienate Latino voters, and the numbers reflect that. None of the national outfits that track Latino voters have anything specific to say about Texas Latinos. The ImpreMedia/Latino Decision tracking poll consists of “300 completed interviews with Latino voters across all 50 states”. The most recent NBC Telemundo poll had no data breakdown that I could find. The most recent Pew Hispanic Center poll is “based on a nationally representative bilingual telephone survey of 1,765 Latino adults, including 903 registered voters”. Intriguingly, they say that while Obama leads 65% to 23% in nine battleground states, he has a larger 70% to 21% lead elsewhere, which in that case includes Texas.

Admittedly, Texas Republicans, at least at the administrative level, are aware of the issues and have worked to court Latino voters, with some success. I am certainly not dismissing the idea that they will get more votes here from Latino voters than the GOP will in other states. Still, as far as I can tell nobody is specifically polling Texas Latinos, and there will be no exit polling done in Texas this year, which will leave a hole in the data set. I have some thoughts as to how I might approach this question after the election, but that will have to wait. For now, the answer to the question that inspired this post is “I just don’t know”. Stace has more.

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