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Latino Vote Stats: Latino Decisions' Methodology More Accurate than National Exit Poll

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Washington, DC – This election cycle, there is a lot of interest in Latino turnout and candidate choice, given the huge impact they had on races in Florida, California, Colorado, and New Mexico.

Today, Latino Decisions released a detailed analysis explaining why the national exit polls fail to capture a representative sample of Latino and other minority voters in their surveys.  Research by Latino Decisions, conducted bilingually during the early voting period, provides a more accurate picture of Latino voter sentiment.   

As Latino Decisions explains, “the data convincingly show that the 2010 national exit poll severely misestimated the Latino vote.”  The selection and design of the national exit poll have major defects in regards to the Latino electorate.  The pollsters rely on small sample sizes of Latino voters to draw conclusions, and decide where to poll based on the percentage of the overall electorate that lives in rural, suburban and urban communities—without regard for the geographic dispersion of the Latino electorate, which is concentrated in more urban locations.  Finally, Latino Decisions notes that the national exit polls do not accurately capture Spanish-dominant Latino voters, and in fact under-survey Spanish-dominant Latino citizens “by almost 10-fold.” 

In a post on the New York Times website entitled, “Did Polls Underestimate Democrats’ Latino Vote?”, polling guru Nate Silver tested the Latino Decisions theory that many others’ polling methods consistently misstate Latino public opinion, finding that in 10 of 15 2010 races with large Latino voting populations, “the polling average underestimated the Democrat’s margin by at least 2.5 points,” leading him to note “the beginnings of a pattern — and considering how rapidly the Latino population is growing, it’s one that pollsters are going to need to address in states like Nevada, California and Texas if we’re going to be able to take their results at face value.”

A series of examples from the 2010 exit polls help explain their defects with regard to Latino and African American voters.  From Latino Decisions:

  • The Exit Polls estimate African American support for Meg Whitman in California at 21%.  (The California Field Poll, the week before the election, estimated black support for Whitman at 8%.)

  • The Exit Polls estimate that among non-white voters in California, 40% have college degrees. In Arizona, 45% have college degrees. In Colorado, an impressive 61% of non-whites have finished college. These data are a far cry from the actual numbers which are less than 20%.

  • In Arizona, only 314 Latino interviews were complete, in Colorado 134, in Illinois 193. The margins-of-error would be 5.5%, 8.5% and 7.1%, respectively, if we don’t correct for the design effect.  After correction, they would be far greater.

  • No vote breakouts by race are provided for Colorado, even though they estimate Latinos at 14% of the electorate. Why was the data not reported, if it was collected?

This is not a new problem for the national exit poll.  In fact, Warren Mitofsky, the head of the 2004 National Exit Poll, noted problems with the Latino component of the exit polling and stated, “If we want to improve the National Exit Poll estimate for Hispanic vote we would either need to drastically increase the number of precincts in the National Sample or oversample the number of Hispanic precincts.”
So what does this all mean?  When it comes to determining what actually happened among Latino voters in the 2010 Elections – including levels of candidate support, the numbers available here are your best bet.
Analysis from New York Times Polling Guru Nate Silver and Latino Decisions on why Latino Decisions’ Methodology Is More Accurate in Capturing Latino Voter Sentiment than National Exit Polls.
Latino Decisions’ Polling Methodology Description.

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