Election 2004 -
Latino Exit Polls

“The 2004 WCVI National Latino Election Day Exit Poll”

Dr. Henry Flores, PhD
St. Mary’s University

All data presented is election day minus absentee ballots

Introduction

There has been disagreement as to the levels of national Latino support enjoyed by both President Bush and Senator Kerry in the 2004 Presidential elections. The National Election Poll (NEP) and Los Angles Times exit polls indicated that 44% and 45% of the Latino electorate respectively voted for President Bush on election-day. However, sample design flaws have called those findings into question.

The William C. Velásquez Institute (WCVI), the non-profit, non-partisan sister organization of the Southwest Voter Registration and Educational Project (SVREP), founded by Willie Velasquez in 1985 conducted the first national exit poll of Latinos on November 2, 2004. Never before in the history of presidential exit polls had an organization conducted a poll exclusively of Latino voters. The findings of this historical poll contradicted those of the NEP and Los Angles Times. The WCVI poll found that only 33.0% of Latinos queried on election-day voted for President Bush while 65.4% supported Senator Kerry. Another 1.4% of Latinos polled indicated that they had cast their votes for Ralph Nader and his vice-presidential running mate.

What was most important about the WCVI findings was not that they differed greatly from those of the NEP and LA Times polls, but that they only varied slightly from five other pre-election polls. Additionally, these findings indicate that Latinos had changed their voting patterns little since the 2000 general election. In 2000 both the WCVI and an independent research source found that President Bush had received only 35% of the Latino national vote. When factoring in the margin of error for both polls the 2004 findings of 33.0% support for President Bush indicate that Latinos had continued to vote in the same manner as they had historically.

The most important question underlying the disagreement between the findings of the NEP, Los Angeles Times and WCVI polls is why the findings of Latino support for the presidential candidates differed so markedly? The twelve to thirteen point variance goes well beyond any possible margin of error. The answer may be found in the methodologies utilized in designing the sampling frame. In other words, if one compares the samples of all three polls one will find why a difference exists between the polls’ respective outcomes.

Methodological Considerations

The Los Angeles Times Sample

The Los Angeles Times poll sample was constructed out of two samples, a nationwide and a California state sample. Both were drawn separately and then combined to increase the number of Latino respondents. The total sample was comprised of 5,154 interviewees questioned at 136 polling places across the nation. Of the total sample, 3,357 or 65.1% were California voters who were interviewed at 50 polling places.(1) The Times indicated that the “[sample] precincts were chosen based on the pattern of turnout in past primary elections.” The survey was self-administered, was confidential and was conducted in either English or Spanish. It was also noted that the margin of error was a plus or minus three percent for all voters but that for some subgroups the margin was higher.(2) This was as much detail available on how the sampling frame was constructed. The gathered demographics indicated that 79% of the sample was comprised of voters who identified themselves as White, another 10% were Black, 5% of the sample identified themselves as Latino, and 3% considered themselves Asian.

Several fundamental flaws are initially clear concerning the construction of the Los Angeles Times poll. First, it is inappropriate, methodologically, to draw two independent samples and then combine them into one larger one without considering controlling for the margin of errors of both samples. This requires conducting a statistical test insuring the complete independence of both samples. It is not clear whether this step was taken including the exact test utilized. Secondly, the manner in which the samples were drawn and then combined resulted in California voters being heavily over sampled, including the Latino voter sub sample. Finally, if one performs the simple arithmetic function of determining the size of the Latino sub sample, one discovers that the 5% Latino sub sample represents a total of 258 cases. If one also considers that Latinos comprise 7.3% of all registered voters nationally, then the Los Angles Times poll under sampled Latino voters by approximately 32%. So the Latino sub sample was both under sampled and biased toward California voters. This last contention is only a suspicion because of the lack of information concerning the sample’s construction available from the Los Angles Times indicating what percentage of the Latino sub sample was drawn from the California sample and what percentage was drawn from the remainder of the United States. An additional item of important information that is lacking is how many total number of Latino interviews beyond California were conducted, in what states they were drawn from, and whether these interviews were drawn from suburban, rural or central city areas.

As a result the contention that the Los Angles Times made that based upon their exit poll 45% of Latino voters nationally supported President Bush must be considered carefully because of the problematic nature of the Latino sub sample.

The National Election Poll (NEP)

The National Election Poll was commissioned by a consortium of media corporations that included ABC, Associated Press, CBS, CNN, Fox, and NBC to provide election day exit polling for use as news outlets affiliated with the consortium reported the election returns throughout the evening of Election Day. The data were collected by Edison Media Research/Mitofsky International who interviewed 13,110 individuals who exited 250 polling places around the nation.(3) The Latino sub sample was comprised of 1,031 individuals representing 7.8% of the entire sample. This was reflective of the proportion of Latinos who are registered voters nationally. The Latino sample, however, was not accurate in several regards. For instance, the sample was drawn principally from geographical regions having populations of less than 500,000 with only 25% or 258 coming from areas having populations of over 500,000. Additionally, 33% of the entire Latino sample was drawn from the Southern Region of the United States. Essentially, the NEP Latino sample did not reflect the normal residential patterns of Latinos nationally in that the Brookings Center on Urban & Metropolitan Policy and the Pew Hispanic Center estimated during the 2000 census that fully 52% of Latinos resided in “Established Latino Metros.”(4)

Other demographic characteristics of the NEP Latino sample bring into question the integrity of the NEP exit poll’s findings. For instance, 46% of those Latinos interviewed indicated that they had completed at least a Bachelor’s degree. This percentage is even higher than the overall national average and highly erroneous. Additionally, only 39.3% of the Latino interviewees identified themselves as being of Mexican origin or ancestry. Data provided in the Pew Hispanic Center’s “2004 National Survey of Latinos: Politics and Civic Participation” which was conducted in July 2004 found that only 16% of Latino registered voters and 10% of all Latinos had achieved a Bachelor’s degree or higher. The same survey found that 60% of registered Latinos identified themselves as having Mexican ancestry.(5)

The William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI) Poll

The WCVI National Election Day Exit Poll of Latino Voters was based upon a proportional-stratified-random sample of 943 Latino voters who were interviewed upon casting their ballots on November 2, 2004. The sample was drawn from 41 precincts taken from eleven states. The states that were chosen were selected because they represented where more than 80% of all Latino registered voters reside nationally.

The first stage of the sample selection was to eliminate, from each of the selected states, all precincts having less than 5% Latino registered voters. This was followed by another step where all precincts having less than 50 Latino voters were eliminated. These two steps were performed control to partially for outlier or extreme value effects and also to control also the margin of error.

All remaining precincts were then weighed by the total number of Registered Latino Voters in each state. In other words, each state was independently weighted to reflect an appropriate residential distribution of the Latino Registered Voters. California and Texas were each then geographically stratification insuring that all regions of the state would have an equal opportunity of being selected for the sample. These latter two stages were taken to control for the geographical bias that could occur due to either uneven distribution or geographical size.

The exact number of precincts selected for each state was determined on a proportional basis depending upon the percentage of Latino Registered Voters residing in each state. For example, since 52.7% of all Latino Registered Voters resided in the states of California and Texas then it was determined that 52.7% of all precincts selected for the poll together with 52.7% of all interviewees would come from these two states. The remaining polls and percentages of interviewees were allocated and selected in the same manner. Finally, the selection of each precinct was determined through the use of the SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) random sampling generator.

Interviewees were selected using intervals based on the percentage of Latino Registered Voters (LRV) in each precinct. Precincts having more than 60% LRVs utilized an interval of 5 while those precincts having less than 60% LRVs used an interval of 3. In other words, in those precincts having more than 60% LRVs every 5 th voter was asked to participate in the survey while in precincts having less than 60% LRVs every 3 rd voter was asked to participate.

Several demographic data are offered to determine how closely the demographic characteristics of the WCVI Exit Poll mirrored those of the national Latino community.

Twenty-nine percent of the interviewees were between the ages of 18 and 29, 19.4% of Latinos interviewed in the poll possessed a Bachelor’s Degree or more educationally, 51.9% of Latinos polled identified themselves as having Mexican ancestry, and 56% indicated that they identified themselves as Democrats and 24.1% as Republicans. According to the United States Bureau of the Census 36% of all Latinos were between 18 and 29 years of age and 10.5% had attained educational levels of a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, and 58.5% of all Latinos identified themselves as having Mexican ancestry.(6) The Pew Hispanic Center concluded that 47.7% of Latinos identified themselves as Democrats while 20% of Republicans identified themselves as Republicans,(7) this represented a three year average.

One can then generally conclude that the WCVI Latino sample was younger than the national government’s estimate, about as college educated as the Pew Center’s estimate of registered Latino voters, possessed less than the U. S. Bureau of the Census’s estimate of people of Mexican ancestry, was more Democratic than the Pew estimate but was also more Republican. The difference between the Pew’s estimate of political affiliation and that of the WCVI is that the Pew survey offered an option for individuals to identify as independents while the WCVI’s did not. On the other hand, the WCVI’s exit poll instrument offered the interviewees an option to identify with the Green Party which 1.4% of the respondents chose. Essentially, the WCVI’s Latino sample was a closer mirror of the national Latino population than either the Los Angles Times or NEP polls. Finally, the WCVI poll interviewed fewer Latinos than the NEP poll but almost three times more than the Los Angeles Times poll.

The final check to determine the representativeness of the WCVI Latino poll a geographical analysis was performed. The Brookings Institute and Pew Hispanic Center identified four specific types of geographical areas where Latinos resided. The table below identifies the four areas and indicates what percent of the national Latino

Area Type

Total Country Population

National Latino Population

WCVI Sample

Established Latino Metro Areas

25.3%

51.5%

43.3%

New Destinations

42.1%

19.3%

30%

Fast Growing Latino Hubs

14.1%

24.9%

20%

Small Latino Places

18.4%

4.4%

7%

population resides in each of the areas. As the data indicate 51.5% of all Latinos reside in Established Latino Metro Areas which are population centers possessing more than 500,000 individuals. Forty-three percent of the Latinos included in the WCVI sample came from these types of areas. As the table indicates the WCVI under sampled the regions identified as Established Latino Metro Areas, Fast Growing Hubs and Small Latino Places and over sampled the New Destinations. Forty-six of the fifty areas identified as New Destinations possess populations of over 500,000 while 8 of the eleven Fast Growing Latino Hubs also possess populations of over 500,000. Small Latino Places were identified as having populations of less than 10% Latino. As a result, one can consider that the WCVI sample was drawn from areas that generally reflect the national residential patterns of Latinos.

Some Interesting Findings

Besides the typical findings of which proportion of the Latinos interviewed indicated that they had cast their vote for a particular candidate other information concerning how they felt about particular public policy issues were gathered and information concerning the age of the electorate, whether the voters were new to the electorate, and language preferences were also gathered from the polls.

Presidential Preferences

The data in the table below indicate that Latinos of all national origins stated that they had supported Senator Kerry over President Bush by a 2 to 1 margin. This margin mirrors how Latinos cast their votes in 2000 when approximately 35% cast their votes for President Bush. Essentially, there is no indication that the percentage of Latinos had changed their party preference from the Democrats to Republicans during the four years between general elections.

For whom did you vote in the Presidential race?

 

 

Valid Percent

George W. Bush/Dick Cheney

33.0

John Kerry/John Edwards

65.4

Ralph Nader/Peter Camejo

1.4

Other

.2

Total

100.0

Comparison to Selected Preelection Polls

Although the above election preferences of the Latino respondents in the WCVI Election Day Exit Poll differ markedly from those of the Los Angeles Times and NEP polls, they are not very different from several Pre-election polls that were conducted by various organizations. In the table below are data comparing the WCVI presidential preferences of Latinos with those of five pre-election polls conducted by four different institutions. As the data in the table indicate the preferences elicited from Latino voters

WCVI Comparison with Five Pre-election Polls

Agency

Date

Bush/Cheney

Kerry/Edwards

Nader/Camejo

WCVI

11-2-04

33%

65.4%

1.4%

Democracy

Corps

3-11-04

34%

56%

Pew Hispanic Center

7-12/20-04

31%

59%

3%

Washington Post

Univision/TRPI

7-6/16-04

27.9%

57.6%

1.6%

Washington Post

10-28-04

30%

59%

Miami Herald

10-30-04

33%

61%

by WCVI appear to compare closely particularly in support for President Bush with those of polls conducted by various research institutions and media outlets who conducted similar polls throughout 2004. The WCVI findings appear to reflect a consistent pattern of presidential preferences exhibited by Latino voters throughout the entire year.

Age

The proportion of the Latinos participating in the WCVI Election Day Exit Poll indicated that they were between the ages of 18 and 29 was 29% revealing that younger Latinos were engaged in the general election. Voters between the ages of 30 and 44 accounted for another 25% of Latinos participating in the 2004 General Election. As a result 54% of Latinos casting their vote on Election Day were below the age of 44. These data compare well with the U.S. Bureau of the Census’s estimate that 51% of all Latinos are between the ages of 17 and 44. (8) The percentage difference between the WCVI sample and the Census Bureau’s data may be due to several factors including the inclusion of 17 year olds in the census data, the differences between registered voters and the total Latino population, and sampling error.

What age group best describes you:

 

 

Frequency

Percent

Valid
Percent

Cumulative
Percent

Valid

18-24

161

18.3

18.8

18.8

25-29

94

10.7

11.0

29.8

30-34

106

12.0

12.4

42.1

35-39

109

12.4

12.7

54.8

40-44

94

10.7

11.0

65.8

45-49

74

8.4

8.6

74.4

50-54

74

8.4

8.6

83.1

55-59

44

5.0

5.1

88.2

60-64

39

4.4

4.6

92.8

65 or older

62

7.0

7.2

100.0

Total

857

97.3

100.0

Missing

System

24

2.7

Total

881

100.0

First Time and Registered Voters

Fully 24.6% of the Latinos polled indicated that this was their first election while 71.6% indicated that they had voted in other elections. These data closely coincided with the percentage of Latino voters who indicated that 78.4% had registered prior to 2002. One must consider, then, that the vast majority of Latino voters were not inexperienced in the manner in which the American electoral system functions and were knowledgeable of both the issues and the presidential candidates.

Language Preference

The Latino respondents indicated that 52.2% of those answering the language preference questions were influenced through the English language media and 27.7% indicated that they were influenced in their voting through Spanish language media outlets. These findings are almost identical to those discovered by the Pew Hispanic

Which of the following media sources most influenced
for whom you voted in the 2004 Presidential campaign?

 

 

Frequency

Percent

Valid
Percent

Cumulative
Percent

Valid

Spanish
language
newspapers

50

5.7

5.9

5.9

English
language
newspapers

108

12.3

12.8

18.7

Spanish
language
radio

31

3.5

3.7

22.3

English
language
radio

44

5.0

5.2

27.5

Spanish
language
TV

122

13.8

14.4

42.0

English
language
TV

276

31.3

32.6

74.6

Spanish
language
Internet

14

1.6

1.7

76.2

English
language
Internet

14

1.6

1.7

77.9

None
influenced

162

18.4

19.1

97.0

Multiple
Responses

25

2.8

3.0

100.0

Total

846

96.0

100.0

Missing

System

35

4.0

Total

881

100.0

Center in October 2002. Their survey found that 53% of Latino registered voters reported watching and listening predominantly to English language news programs and 27% of the Latino respondents indicated that they listened equally to Spanish and English news programs and 19% tuned in to predominantly Spanish programming.(9)

Issue Preferences

The WCVI Election Day respondents were asked to identify the most important single issue that “mattered most in deciding” how they voted for president. In the table below are the frequencies of those responses. As the data indicate the two most important issues by far to the respondents were the economy or concern over jobs and the war in Iraq. 11.8% of respondents identified multiple responses which was followed by abortion and the war on terrorism which received 8.3% each
.

Which one issue mattered most in deciding how you voted for president?

 

 

Frequency

Percent

Valid
Percent

Cumulative
Percent

Valid

Abortion

73

8.3

8.6

8.6

Bilingual Education

34

3.9

4.0

12.6

Crime/Drugs

20

2.3

2.4

14.9

Economy/Jobs

172

19.5

20.2

35.2

Iraq War

170

19.3

20.0

55.2

Gun
Control

7

.8

.8

56.0

The
Environment

7

.8

.8

56.8

Health
Care

71

8.1

8.4

65.2

Immigration
Policy

25

2.8

2.9

68.1

Public
Education

26

3.0

3.1

71.2

War on
Terrorism

73

8.3

8.6

79.8

Taxes

13

1.5

1.5

81.3

Same Sex
Marriage

18

2.0

2.1

83.4

Other

37

4.2

4.4

87.8

Multiple
Responses

104

11.8

12.2

100.0

Total

850

96.5

100.0

Missing

System

31

3.5

Total

881

100.0

Health care concerns received 8.1% support while other issues did not receive more than 3.9%. Interestingly enough only 2% were influenced by same sex marriages. The most fascinating aspect of these findings is that more than 64.1% of the respondents identified themselves as Catholic yet neither of the two “moral value” issues—abortion or same sex marriage which the church hierarchy had taken a very public position on—resonated well with the Latinos participating in the Election Day poll.

Conclusions and Thoughts

  • The single most important issue is that this is the first national election day exit poll that included only Latinos;
  • The voting patterns of Latinos remained relatively stable since the last Presidential Election indicating no realignment or shift of this voting group;
  • Latino voting patterns as exhibited by the WCVI poll coincide with those of polls taken by other institutions who conducted interviews of Latino voters throughout 2004.
  • The Latino electorate tends to be a bit younger than that of the nation generally;
  • The Latino voter tends to be more educated than the general population of Latinos but not as much as that of the national population;
  • Latino voters are seasoned voters and are knowledgeable of the issues and candidates that best suit their need;
  • Latino voters “appear” to be rational voters in that they vote for issues pertinent to their needs and interests—economy and war in Iraq—and do not succumb to emotionally charged propaganda around emotionally charged issues such as abortion or same sex marriage; and,
  • The WCVI poll more accurately portrayed the candidate and issue preferences of Latino voters on Election Day, 2004.

(1) “Times National Exit Poll Results,” Rebecca Perry, Los Angeles Times.

(2) Ibid.

(3) “Election 2004 - How Americans Voted: A Political Portrait,” Marjorie Connelly, New York Times, November 7, 2004, p. WK 4.

(4) “Latino Growth in Metropolitan America: Changing Patterns, New Locations,” Roberto Suro and Audrey Singer, Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy and Pew Hispanic Center, July 2002.

(5) “The 2004 National Survey of Latinos: Politics and Civic Participation,” Pew Hispanic Center, July 2004.

(6) “Census 2000 Data,” Department of Commerce, U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2002.

(7) “2004 Survey of Latinos.”

(8) “Hispanic Population in the United States: March 2002,” U.S. Department of Commerce, U. S. Bureau of the Census, June 2003.

(9) “Pew Hispanic Center/Kaiser Family Foundation National Survey of Latinos: The Latino Electorate,” Pew Hispanic Center, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, October 2002.

 
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