Earlier today, we highlighted how leading English language media outlets and observers were recognizing that the national exit polls failed to accurately capture Latino voters’ record turnout and margins on behalf of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 elections. We also want to highlight the work of a leading Latina journalist – Pilar Marrero of La Opinión – who gets it.
As we noted earlier, understanding the real story of Latino voters’ behavior in 2016 is not an academic or methodological issue. At a time when the Latino and immigrant communities are vulnerable and fearful given the election of Donald Trump, an accurate assessment of the community’s performance in the 2016 elections and its electoral power is of huge consequence. Selling the Latino vote short, as the national exit polls do, essentially diminishes – even disenfranchises – Latino voters at a moment of maximum peril.
Pilar Marrero is the senior political reporter for the nation’s largest Spanish language daily newspaper, La Opinión, recently appeared on the “Tavis Smiley Show” on PBS and made a compelling case about the real Latino voter story in 2016. Below is an excerpted transcript from Marrero’s appearance on the nationally syndicated show. The full version is worth watching online here.
“Marrero: …in the mainstream media, they keep repeating that the Latino vote was not what it was, the Latino vote was higher for Trump than it was for Romney. That’s absolutely false.
Tavis: Hold on a moment. I’m glad you said that. I pulled this out. Let me show you the numbers that I’ve–I’ve seen these numbers everywhere.
Marrero: That’s the consortium exit poll, right?
Tavis: I’ve seen these numbers of a couple different places, but here’s what’s being put out and then you can respond where you want to respond. So we are told that Trump specifically, 33% of Latino men, we are told, voted for Donald Trump, and 26% of Latino women voted for Donald Trump.
When you listen to what Donald Trump said about this community, the fact that these numbers could be anywhere near this level even if they’re inaccurate are stunning for me.
Marrero: Well, even if you don’t listen, if you don’t remember what he said, what we know about this exit poll that they conduct is that it’s a national poll. And when they extrapolate Latinos, the sample is too small. They don’t choose the counties that have the representative Latino population.
They don’t balance the population with demographics. They don’t interview in Spanish. They don’t do all the things you need to do and experts of the Latino vote do, and they have done in this election. There’s a major poll that was put out by several organizations. 5,600 Latinos in…
Tavis: And what do those numbers say basically?
Marrero: Those numbers say 76%–first of all, the turnout was strong. It was higher. They’re estimating about two million more Latino voters than the previous presidential election, which is a lot.
Tavis: That’s big, yeah.
Marrero: The breakdown is the most support a Democratic candidate has had, 76%. And they estimate about 18% for Trump.
Tavis: And by that number, he would have done better or worse than Romney?
Marrero: Worse than Romney. Romney did about 20 or 21, depending on where you live.
Tavis: So the numbers that you believe suggest that he did not do as well as Romney did.
Marrero: The only presidential candidate that beat as bad was Bob Dole in ’96, and that was after Proposition 187. The whole thing, you may remember, happened. And then when you break it further down, it’s interesting because when you look at people who took the interviews in Spanish, 9% only voted for Trump.
A little bit higher in the people who took the interview in English, meaning some of the Mexican Americans born here voted for him a little bit more. When you look at Florida, the Cuban American community split almost right in the middle. Still, they voted for Trump less than they voted for Romney.
Tavis: But for those who did vote for Trump, just help me understand why after what he said repeatedly that any percent of an appreciable number of people would vote for Donald Trump.
Marrero: Well, there’s always people that interpret things differently. In the Mexican American community, I’ve heard and known people who are against their immigrant brothers and sisters. They believe that they take away jobs from them and they believe it’s unfair. I mean, the same thing that others may feel, right?
And the Cuban American community, especially the older folk in the Cuban American community in Florida and in other places, I was reading an analysis recently about how in general those folks tend to be Republican. But at the same time, they also thought President Obama went too fast in the opening towards Cuba and those images of him like with Castro and all that…
Tavis: I get the Cuban thing because if you think Obama was wrong on opening up, I totally get that part. But outside of Cubans, it’s hard for me to kind of understand.
Marrero: Yeah. Well, remember that guy that went on TV and said we’re gonna have taco trucks on every corner [laugh]?
Tavis: Oh, yeah. Of course, of course [laugh].
Marrero: So that kind of guy. You know, that kind of guy. There are people in this community that are very ultra-conservative. I recently talked to a lady who I know she was a longtime Republican, affluent from a Central American country. She told me it was about immigration, that she thought it was unfair for people to immigrate here without authorization and she felt that was unfair.
But that’s a very small number among the Latino community. Most Latinos understand the plight of undocumented immigrants and why they come here the way they do. And they understand also that, if you deport millions of them, this is gonna unsettle the economy of this country.
…Tavis: Do you think that what we saw happen this time portends well for the future of the Hispanic vote, that what happened this time is only going to grow and get bigger and make that voting bloc even more critical?
Marrero: I think, obviously, that the group is going to continue growing. The people who turn 18, etc., I only feel that this may be such a disappointment that people think what the hell, you know? We voted. People need to understand that voting in one election is not enough, that civic participation entails a lot of things and not just voting once.
You know, that’s where Spanish media comes in and that’s where a lot of us come in. English language media, especially television in English mainstream news challenges were reflecting yesterday in social media about themselves and about–some journalists were–we are to blame for, you know, giving Donald Trump so many billions of dollars in air time.
And I responded, well, you know, I don’t think Spanish media feels that we are to blame on the country. I think we did our job. We did our job in informing our audience who this man was and what he was saying.
Tavis: Well, the mainstream media, don’t get me started [laugh].”