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Exit Polling in Virginia Badly Understates Latino Vote Margin

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The media-sponsored exit polling has a good reputation for many things, but a terrible reputation when it comes to capturing Latino voting behavior.  This is precisely why ImpreMedia, a leading Spanish language media company, is sponsoring Election Eve polling of Latino voters – nationwide and in 11 key states.

Tonight’s first example of how this blind spot is affecting assessments of key states is showing up in Virginia.  The exit polling says that Obama is leading Romney 53% – 44%.  The ImpreMedia/Latino Decisions Election Eve poll of Latino voters has Obama beating Romney by 66% – 31%.  That’s the difference between a narrow 9% lead and a huge 35% lead.  The stakes are high: if the exit polling is right, Romney is likely to win the state; if the Latino Decisions polling is right, Obama is likely to win the state.

Who is right?  Of course, time will tell.  But recent electoral history is replete with examples of how traditional exit polling oversampled Latinos who lean Republican and under sampled Latinos, especially those who speak Spanish and lean more heavily Democratic.  For a thorough examination, see this post by Latino Decisions Principal Matt Barreto, entitled: “How the Exit Polls Misrepresent Latino Voters, and Badly.”

We caution those who are depending on the exit polling to accurately tell the story of what’s happening in states with a growing Latino vote to cross check the exit polling results with the Latino Decisions Election Eve polling.  It could make all the difference in making calls regarding battleground state outcomes.