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Latino Decisions' Barreto and Schaller on Whether Polls Are Capturing Colorado's Latino

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Matt Barreto and Tom Schaller, in a post originally published at Politico Magazine and the Latino Decisions blog, ask “Is it possible that Colorado’s Cory Gardner is shaping up to be this election cycle’s Sharron Angle?”

Their post is worth a read for anyone interested in how pollsters continually fail “to keep up with demographic shifts among American minorities, especially Latinos and Asian-Americans.” After noting how most pollster got Nevada’s Reid/Angle Senate race wrong in 2010, they take a closer look at Colorado’s Udall/Gardner Senate race:

In ten statewide (mostly media-sponsored) polls taken in Colorado in the past five weeks, for example, nine showed Gardner leading Udall by single-digits among Latinos. Given that our recent statewide poll of Colorado Latinos shows Udall leading Gardner by a whopping 41 points, 55 percent to 14 percent, we’d be shocked if Gardner carries the Latino vote.

In a close race like the Udall-Gardner contest, polling discrepancies of this magnitude—especially in a state where Latinos were 12 percent of the electorate in the 2010 midterm and comprise an even larger percentage today—can alone account for a seemingly last-minute reversal from an apparent Gardner “lead” to an actual Udall victory, when in fact Udall may have been ahead all along.

As fivethirtyeight.com’s Harry Enten notes, more recent statewide polls show Udall leading Gardner among Latinos by margins of 22, 28 and even 73 points. These numbers seem somewhat more plausible to us. But it’s difficult not to conclude that inconsistent polling contributed to Udall’s Latino margin vacillating, in the two most extreme cases, from -8 points (Quinnipiac, Sep. 10-15) to +73 points (Suffolk, Oct. 18-21) within just five weeks.

Maybe Gardner will be the latest victim of systematic polling bias; maybe not. But does it really make sense that his support from Latinos in the statewide Colorado polls has been dropping—and in some cases plummeting—yet he has held or even widened his lead over Udall?

Perhaps Gardner has broadened his support among the more than 80 percent of non-Latino Coloradans. Or perhaps there’s something fishy in those polls.

On Tuesday, we’ll find out.

We will definitely find out Tuesday because Latino Decisions is conducting a 2014 election eve poll on behalf of America’s Voice and several of our allies.