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How Many Republican Hispanics in California?

Topics: Divergent Polls , Exit Polls

An item posted earlier this week by Mickey Kaus noted findings among Hispanic Republicans in California from a SurveyUSA automated poll on the 2008 Republican presidential primary. Kaus pointed out that California Hispanic Republicans "[make] up 17% of ‘likely Republican Primary voters' in Survey USA's model" [it was 15% in a previous survey]. That post may have been what prompted Pollster reader Jerry Skurnick to comment: "This poll says that 17% of Republican Primary voters are Hispanic. Isn't that insane?"

I asked two California pollsters for their reactions (and a little data) and both agreed that a 15-17% Hispanic composition was highly unlikely for a Republican primary in that state in 2008.

Susan Pinkus, polling director for the Los Angeles Times, checked the racial composition in LA Times California exit polls for Republican primaries. She found that in 1992, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004 the Latino share of the Republican vote was always somewhere between 3% and 6%.

Of course, California's Hispanic population has been growing rapidly. Last month, I saw a presentation at the AAPOR conference by the Field Poll's Mark DeCamillo that noted the rapid growth and influence of California's Latino vote. I emailed him for a reaction and received the following response:

Most Latinos who are registered to vote in California are registered as Democrats. Regarding Latino voting in the upcoming CA primary elections, we estimate that only about 1 in 10 likely GOP primary voters (10%) would be Latinos, whereas as many as one in four (25%) of likely voters in the Democratic primary would be Latino.

So, in answer to your question, no I don't think it is likely that Latino voters will comprise 15% + of the GOP primary vote in CA.

Another bit of data that may be instructive: The NEP network exit poll consortium has not polled in a California Republican primary since the 1990s. However, they have done exit polls in general elections and these show the Latino contribution for all voters (Republicans, Democrats and independents) to be 19% in 2006 and 21% in 2004.

I asked SurveyUSA's Jay Leve for a reaction and received this reply:

SurveyUSA polled CA statewide GOP primaries in 2004 and 2002, using almost identical methodology. Comparing SurveyUSA to SurveyUSA may offer context. In the 2004 CA GOP Primary, SurveyUSA showed 19% of GOP primary voters to be Hispanic (Hispanic on the ballot for U.S. Senate). In 2002, SurveyUSA showed 11% of CA GOP Primary voters to be Hispanic (no Hispanic on the ballot). Last month, SurveyUSA showed 15% of CA GOP Primary voters to be Hispanic. Today, 17%. I welcome this careful inspection of our data. No state is better served by its local pollsters - Field, LA Times, PPIC, San Jose State, Datamar and others - than is California. We have much to learn from them.

Leve also sent along the following table showing how his final survey performed in the 2004 Republican primary featuring a Hispanic candidate (Rosario Marin). His implicit point is that his poll provided an accurate forecast of the outcome of that race - and a closer projection of Marin's support than other polls - despite having a percentage of Hispanic voters (19%) that was apparently far out of line with what the LA Times exit poll showed.

06-07%20susa_sml.png

So the bottom line: The current SurveyUSA estimate of Latino voters does seem to be on the high side, although these sorts of comparisons can be difficult because the "right" number is impossible to determine with any certainty. Keep in mind that all of the above comparisons are based on surveys of one kind or another. Exit polls are arguably our best gauge of who votes, but as we have all learned the hard way, exit polls are also subject to sampling variation and non-sampling errors of their own.

I should also point out that we are able to "inspect" the demographic composition of SurveyUSA data because they choose to release it for every survey they conduct along with the substantive results. I wish I could say the same for most other public pollsters, including those at Field and the LA Times (who, of course, kindly responded as they always do to my requests for additional data). Our comment boards have been alive lately with perfectly valid questions about the reliability of new surveys in states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. If poll consumers could make these sorts of demographic comparisons for every survey, we would all be better off.

 

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