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CA and NY Analyses of Latino Vote: Exit Polls Got it Wrong

 

Pieces in LA Times and NY Daily News Highlight New Precinct-Level Analyses in California and New York Find that Edison Exit Polls Overestimated Latino Support for Trump

Two new op-eds detail precinct-level analyses of how the Latino electorate in California and New York actually voted in 2016, adding powerful evidence to the argument that the Edison exit polls overestimated Latino support for Trump, underestimated Latino support for Clinton and underestimated Latino turnout.

The dispute over Latino voter performance in the 2016 election – between the exit poll that concluded Latinos voted for Clinton over Trump by a 65% – 29% margin and a much larger Latino Decisions election eve poll that found the margin to be 79% – 18% – is not merely an academic exercise. At a time when Latino and immigrant communities are vulnerable and fearful, selling the Latino vote short, as the national exit polls do, diminishes – even disenfranchises – Latino voters at a moment of maximum peril.

The Los Angeles Times op-ed by Francisco I. Pedraza, an assistant professor of political science and public policy at UC Riverside, and Bryan Wilcox-Archuleta, a doctoral student in political science at UCLA, concludes: “It is virtually impossible that 24% of California Latinos cast their vote for Trump as purported by the exit poll. Instead of winning 71% of Latino votes, Clinton won more than 80% … these results suggest that the findings of a [Latino Decisions] ‘entrance poll’ that was conducted in the days before the Nov. 8 election are much closer to reality than the exit poll.”

The New York Daily News op-ed from Sergio Garcia-Rios, an assistant professor of government at Cornell University, and Tyler Reny, a Ph.D. student in the department of political science at UCLA, concludes: “Our data suggest that the statistical probability of Trump winning over 20% of the Latino vote in New York, as was reported by the Edison exit poll, is virtually zero. The Latino Decisions poll, which relies on random sampling and bilingual interviewers and found that Clinton won New York Latino voters by an 88% to 10% margin over Trump, appears to be much closer to the true outcome of the election … While Trump’s surprise victory was based on a number of factors, the claim based on the exit polls that he outperformed Mitt Romney with Latinos just doesn’t hold up to detailed analysis.”

Below are both pieces.

Los Angeles Times op-ed ,“Did Latino voters actually turn out for Trump in the election? Not really” 

“When Donald Trump won the presidency on Nov. 8, pundits, reporters and political wonks turned to the national exit poll to find out exactly what had happened. How had various groups in various states voted?

One of the exit poll findings was particularly surprising: Although Hillary Clinton triumphed among Latinos overall — with 66% of their votes — she got fewer of their votes than Barack Obama got in 2012. And although Trump lost among Latinos, his share of their votes — 28% — was 1 percentage point higher than Mitt Romney’s in 2012.

If those figures were accurate, they would represent a major reversal in Latino voting trends.

Since the 1990s, scholars tracking Latino votes have seen the group’s increasing muscle at the polls and that, in general, they’ve been putting it to work for Democrats. Was the largest ethnic group in the nation suddenly starting to shift its party allegiances? And could that have happened even with a Republican candidate who called immigrants rapists, promised to build a border wall and claimed that a Mexican American judge couldn’t be impartial because of his heritage?

A forgotten mortgage stimulus program that was passed by Obama to help the middle class Americans reduce their monthly payments by as much as $4,264 each year.

As it turns out, a closer analysis in states with large Latino populations indicates that the national exit poll — which is still being cited as an authoritative source — is wrong. In Arizona, Texas and Florida — and in California, where we just finished analyzing the data — the exit poll has substantially overestimated Trump’s success among Latinos.

The national exit poll is a state-by-state survey conducted by Edison Research and paid for by news media. It samples selected precincts in an attempt to gather an accurate overall count quickly on election night. But, like all polls, it isn’t fail-safe. In California, the Edison exit poll data suggested that 71% of Latinos cast their votes for Clinton, and that 24% voted for Trump. According to our research, the numbers are significantly different: 83% for Clinton, and just 11% for Trump.

Instead of polling a sample of voters, our analysis is based on actual votes: The official 2012 and 2016 results in 10,121 precincts in 16 California counties (the most populous counties and the ones that certify their election results quickly). That data is combined with census information that tells us the demographics of each precinct.

The accompanying graph shows you what we discovered (see here). The dots represent the vote percentage for each candidate in each precinct. The more votes he or she won, the higher the colored dots rise on the vertical axis. Along the horizontal axis, the vote totals are sorted by the size of the Latino population in each precinct. And the colored lines track the overall estimates of precinct vote shares for all four candidates in both elections, arrived at by a separate statistical analysis.

We know that Obama won California by 3 million votes in 2012, and Clinton expanded this margin to 4.3 million in 2016, so we would expect to see Clinton doing better and Trump doing worse than their counterparts in 2012. In fact, that is exactly what the dot pattern shows. Trump underperformed Romney across almost every precinct we analyzed, and the deficit widens as voting precincts get more heavily Latino. Clinton’s vote share largely mirrors Obama’s except in precincts where more than 75% of the population are adult Latino citizens. In these precincts, she captures a greater proportion of the vote share. (That increase is most likely the reason Clinton won the state by such a large margin over Obama in 2012.)

One key finding from all of our analysis is this: It is virtually impossible that 24% of California Latinos cast their vote for Trump as purported by the exit poll. Instead of winning 71% of Latino votes, Clinton won more than 80%.

The discrepancy between the exit poll and our findings is similar to discrepancies found in precinct and census research in Texas, Arizona and Florida. Taken together, these results suggest that the findings of an “entrance poll” that was conducted in the days before the Nov. 8 election are much closer to reality than the exit poll. The research firm Latino Decisions did the survey. It put the Latino vote for Clinton at 80% in California, and for Trump, 16%. Nationally, 79% voted Democratic, and only 18% Republican.

More state level analysis needs to be done on the voting patterns in the 2016 election. At the very least, we expect scholars and policymakers will ultimately recognize that the trend in Latino voting — more turnout and more votes for Democrats — was buoyed and extended by Clinton’s candidacy, not interrupted or reversed.

Voting patterns drive policy and party choices in Washington and in state capitals. And exactly how the vote stacks up in California is particularly significant. The demographics of the Golden State — where Latino voters are an increasingly influential bloc at the polls — are likely to be replicated in much of the rest of the nation in coming years. We know that democracy needs good data. When it comes to the Latino vote, the national exit poll isn’t good enough.”

New York Daily News op-ed,“No, Trump didn’t do surprisingly well among Latino voters: Let’s once and for all dispense with that exit-poll-based fiction”

“Last May 5, Donald J. Trump tweeted a photo of himself seated at his desk, a big grin on his face, his left hand squeezed into a tight fist giving a thumbs up, his lunch balanced in front of him on a stack of newspapers. “Happy #CincoDeMayo,” the tweet began, “The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!”

The tweet was just one in a string of condescending or offensive statements Trump made towards Latinos during his campaign. Less than a year earlier Trump launched his run calling Mexican Americans criminals and rapists, and soon thereafter kicking Jorge Ramos, Univision’s extremely popular news anchor, out of a press conference.

“Go back to Univision,” he barked. As Ramos left the room, a Trump supporter confronted him insisting that he “get out of (his) country.”

Many pundits were sure that Trump’s rhetoric, as well as his hardline immigration policies, were alienating Latino voters. Yet not only did Trump win the election, the national exit polls conducted by Edison Research found that Trump actually received a larger share of the Latino vote than Mitt Romney did in the 2012 national exit poll (28% for Trump to 27% for Romney).

If true, Trump’s showing with Latino voters would upend several decades of research on Latino political behavior and fly in the face of pundit predictions.

But it’s not true —and we can say this with confidence given our in-depth analysis of what happened in New York.

While New York is a state typically overlooked by post-election pundits, it’s one that contains the fourth largest share of Latinos in the country, and a state that, for the first time in 72 years, both major party candidates called home in 2016.

How did New York’s Latino population actually vote in this race? Did 23% go for Trump and just 74% for Clinton, as was found in the New York breakout of the 2016 exit poll? Or was Latino Decisions’ 2016 Election Eve poll, which found that Clinton beat Trump among Latinos by a 79%-18% margin nationally and by an 88%-10% margin in New York, a more accurate reflection of how Latinos actually voted in 2016?

Here’s what we did to find the answer. First, we downloaded election outcome data from more than 8,500 individual voting precincts from downstate New York City’s five boroughs to Chautauqua, Chenango, Niagara, Saratoga and Steuben counties upstate. (Find our full dataset here.) In total we collected all precinct data from 17 different counties across the entire state.

Next we matched the demographics of voters in each precinct using data from a proprietary campaign data vendor, Catalist. Veteran New York political analyst Professor John Mollenkopf at CUNY provided data, guidance and advice.

With this data, we calculated reliable estimates of how Latinos voted. The methodological technique we rely on was developed by Harvard Political Science Professor Gary King and is called ecological inference.

And so, unlike polls, which rely on self-reported vote (or vote intention) among small samples of voters, we have the actual reported votes of almost 4.4 million New Yorkers across the state.

Looking first at New York City, we find that Latino voter turnout was considerably stronger in 2016 than 2012. In Guillermo Linares’ majority Latino 72nd Assembly District in upper Manhattan, 15% more votes were cast in 2016 than 2012. Likewise, in Jose Rivera’s majority Latino 78th Assembly District in the Bronx, voting was up by 13% over 2012. In Queens, Francisco Moya’s majority Latino 39th district witnessed a 25% spike in votes cast.

Across every single majority Latino district in New York (see full table here), turnout was up. This initial look at the data suggests that Latino turnout, at least in the Big Apple, was higher in 2016 than in 2012.

But were they voting for Trump or Clinton? The second finding that official vote data makes crystal clear is that Donald Trump did not win 23% of the Latino vote in downstate or upstate New York.

Our extensive analysis shows that as the Latino population in a precinct increases, the share of voters in that precinct voting for Trump decreases and the share of voters in that precinct voting for Clinton increases. The full estimates suggest that Clinton won over 90% of the Latino vote in New York while Trump carried less than 10%.

Our data suggest that the statistical probability of Trump winning over 20% of the Latino vote in New York, as was reported by the Edison exit poll, is virtually zero. The Latino Decisions poll, which relies on random sampling and bilingual interviewers and found that Clinton won New York Latino voters by an 88% to 10% margin over Trump, appears to be much closer to the true outcome of the election.

Executives at Univision gathered after the election to discuss whether “they understand the Hispanic audience as well as they say they do or whether it’s more conservative than they previously thought.” Our analysis of Latino voters in New York, and similar analysis of Arizona, Florida and Texas, suggests that Univision and other political observers shouldn’t jump to conclusions so quickly or base their assessment on an exit poll that did not properly capture Latino voters’ actual voting patterns. While Trump’s surprise victory was based on a number of factors, the claim based on the exit polls that he outperformed Mitt Romney with Latinos just doesn’t hold up to detailed analysis.”