How The Exit Polls Misrepresent Latino Voters, And Badly

Source: Gary Segura / Latino Decisions

Did you know that, despite running exceedingly racialized anti-Latino advertisements in Nevada’s Senate race, Sharon Angle got 30% of the Latino vote? Jan Brewer also did well, attracting an above-average 28% share of Arizona’s Hispanic vote just months after signing SB1070 into law.  Moreover, Meg Whitman received 21% of the African American vote in her failed run for Governor of California, including 28% of black males!

If these “facts” sound suspicious to you, they should.  Nevertheless, they represent several of the formal findings of the National Exit Poll from 2010.

As we approach the election night for 2012, we again want to caution the press and the public.  The National Exit Polls are very GOOD at calling overall state results in terms of the two-party vote and even better at getting the internals of the white, non-Hispanic vote.  They do far less well in accurately capturing the vote of Latinos, other racial and ethnic minorities, and—indeed—any sub-group not evenly distributed throughout the US.  And with the issue of language, the exit polls do a particularly bad job for Latinos. In January 2005 in the aftermath of the 2004 Bush-Kerry election, Warren Mitofsky, the head of the 2004 National Exit Poll, wrote in a self-assessment of the erroneous exit poll data, “Some estimates differ by several points among certain demographic groups, most noticeably among Hispanics. These differences appear mostly among demographic groups that are both relatively small and those that tend to be geographically concentrated.”  He concluded that his own previous estimate of 44% of Latinos voting for Bush was wrong.


  1. How were precincts selected?  What criteria apart from “probability proportionate to size” were used?  How were “national” precincts selected from the state samples?  What did NEP do in the 19 states where there are NO state level studies?
  2. What share of Latino interviews were done in Spanish?  If that number is much less than 25-30%, how can your poll be accurate if between a quarter and a third of Latino voters are Spanish-dominant?
  3. How reflective is the exit poll of the true population of Hispanic/Latino voters?
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