Missing Latinos–Again

Since we’re all doomed to be transfixed by polls for the next two weeks, it’s well worth paying attention to this protest from Latino Decisions’ Matt Baretto:

In 1998 Harry Pachon and Rudy de la Garza wrote a report for the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute titled “Why Pollsters Missed the Latino Vote – Again!” in which they argued that polls across California failed to accurately account for Latino voters in their samples, and that pre-election polls statewide were fraught with errors as a result. Pachon and de la Garza argued that “mainstream” pollsters failed to account for Latinos for three primary reasons: 1) their sample sizes of Latinos were far too small; 2) their Latinos samples were not representative of the Latino population within the state; and 3) they were not interviewing Latinos in Spanish at the correct proportions. THIS WAS 14 YEARS AGO (yes I am screaming).

In 2010 Gary Segura and I wrote that not much had changed and polls continued to mis-represent the Latino vote. It is now well-known that polls in Nevada had small, unrepresentative and biased samples of Latinos, leading them to entirely miss Harry Reid’s 5-point lead over Sharron Angle. Two weeks ago, Nate Silver wrote at 538 that some polls seem to be continuing the same mistakes and under-counting and mis-counting Latino voters, which he had originally picked up, and wrote about the day after the 2010 midterms. Around the same time some new polls started appearing in states like Nevada and Florida with bizarre data for Latino voters – Obama only had an 8 point lead among Nevada Latinos, and Romney was actually ahead among Latinos in Florida. Really?

No.

Baretto goes on to skewer recently and heavily publicized national polls by Monmouth, GWU/Battleground and PPP for showing narrow Obama margins among Latinos that are totally out of line with repeated findings from ImpreMedia/Latino Decisions, NBC/Telemundo, the Pew Hispanic Center, and other outlets with a better record of measuring Latino public opinion. You’d think with all the talk about the importance of this vote in 2012, and the recognition of past struggles by pollsters in measuring it, there would be more talk about this problem. Maybe it will take another election cycle.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.