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 percent to 45 percent. Among Latinos, they report Obama leads by just 6 points – 48 percent to 42 percent. 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 percent for Obama to 21.9 percent for Romney.
The Monmouth poll is not the only one that is off, the Gallup tracking poll has also been heavily criticized for mis-calculating the minority vote. Noted Political Scientist Alan Abramowitz has written recently that Gallup has too many Whites and too few Blacks and Latinos in their sample, not keeping up with simple demographic changes in America. And other polls are similarly off. A Politico/GWU poll in mid-October had Latinos 53-44for Obama, +9 nationally.
Let’s examine how these faulty Latino numbers create problems with the overall national estimates. Afterall, Latinos are estimated to comprise 10% off all voters this year. If Latinos are only leaning to Obama 48-42, that +6 edge among 10% of the electorate only contributes a net 0.6 advantage to Obama (4.8 for Obama to 4.2 for Romney). However, if instead Obama is leading 70.3 to 21.9 that +48.4 edge contributes a net 4.8 advantage to Obama (7.0 to 2.2), hence the national polls may be missing as much as 4 full points in Obama’s national numbers.
To read more on the breakout of the numbers log onto LatinoDecisions.com.