Latino vote expert disputes exit polls

LOS ANGELES — Latino leaders are disputing election exit polls that indicate a more than 10 percent increase in support for George W. Bush in 2004 compared to 2000. They point to an exit poll designed to reflect Latino demographics indicating that the Latino vote stayed at 2-to-1 for the Democratic ticket.

An exit poll by Edison Media Research for major media outlets, including AP, CBS, CNN and NBC, widely publicized its projection that the Latino presidential vote was 53 percent for Kerry to 44 percent for Bush. A Los Angeles Times exit poll seemingly validated this with a 54-45 breakdown.

“It’s simply not so,” said Antonio Gonzalez, who as president of both the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project (SWVREP) and its research arm, the William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI), is a foremost authority on Latino voting trends. The WCVI conducted its own exit poll that showed a 68-31 margin for Kerry.

SWVREP has been conducting voter projects among Latinos since 1974 and has spearheaded the more than tripling of the Latino national vote. Its experience with national media polls has consistently showed an undercount of urban Latinos in their methodology, Gonzalez said in an interview with the World.

While the majority of the national population is non-urban, Latinos have the highest urban concentration of all national groups, Gonzalez said. The 2000 census had Latinos making up 12.5 percent of the nation’s population, but 19.3 percent of the population in the country’s cities. While the majority of Latinos vote Democratic, non-urban Latinos do so proportionately less. Most polls survey a larger number of non-urban voters. The East LA area has the most concentrated Latino population at over 96 percent. The area voted 84 percent for Kerry.

The WCVI poll was focused solely on the Latino electorate with counties and precincts selected on Latino electoral demographics, said Gonzalez, who pointed out that the Edison poll determined Latinos were 8 percent of the overall vote, while the LA Times had 5 percent.

With an estimated overall turnout of 115 million, the first poll’s numbers would have 9.2 million Latinos, of the 10 million registered, voting. The LA Times would indicate only 5.75 million, less than voted in 2000. Neither number is credible, according to Gonzalez.

The WCVI poll is about to be updated in line with voter turnout data from the states, Gonzalez said, with the breakdown closer to 65-35 for Kerry, a slight improvement for Bush. WCVI conducted an additional poll for Florida alone, which showed 52 percent for Kerry and 45.7 percent for Bush, while in 2000 it was 61 for Bush to 39 for Gore.

“We have been doing battle over accuracy with the national polls’ suburban biases … notably with the LA Times poll stating Latinos voted in the majority for California’s anti-immigrant ballot initiative … we’re more than ready to do battle again,” said Gonzalez.

The author can be reached at rosalio_munoz@sbcglobal.net.click here for Spanish text