Outcome of 2016 Latinx vote remains disputed

by | Jan 18, 2017 | Elections | Comments

President-Elect Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric alienated many latinxs, leading many to predict that he would net an all time low percentage of the demographic.  

However, exit polls tell a different story.  A CNN poll showed Trump’s latinx vote share at 27% percent; the New York Times exit poll showed Trump’s performance two points higher at 29%.  These statistics were surprising to many observers– a 27% showing would match Mitt Romney’s 2012 performance, while winning 29% would put Trump ahead of the former nominee.  

Republican candidates have traditionally struggled with latinx voters.  George W. Bush’s popular vote victory in 2004 was notable in part because he won 44% of the latinx vote.  Experts say that it is important not to lump the demographic into one camp; many latinx voters are socially conservative and equally concerned about illegal immigration as other Americans.  Many latinx-americans felt that Trump’s anti-mexican rhetoric didn’t apply to legal latinx-americans who were integrated into American society.  In Florida, for example, cuban-americans helped come away with a victory.  

If the exit-poll’s numbers are correct, it would indicate Trump had broader appeal than originally anticipated.  However, Gary Segura and Matt Barreto dispute the mainstream exit polls.  Their group, latinx decisions, conducts bilingual polling more geographically representative of the latinx vote.  Their model produces a very different result, indicating an all time low share of the latinx vote at 18%.  Segura and Barreto claim their methodology is superior to exit polls, but data-journalism website FiveThirtyEight asserts their methods make the same mistakes as polls that predicted a Clinton victory.  

Given that the latinx vote is a surging portion of the electorate, it is important for citizens and politicians alike to understand their political alignment.  With recent polling errors in major elections, data agencies will have to reexamine the ways they come to understand the electorate.

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