THE BLOG

In Historic Mayoral Race, New Poll Showcases Why Language Matters

03/30/2015 12:57 pm ET | Updated May 30, 2015

Whether they answered their phones at home or on their cell phones with a "bueno?," "hello?," or "si, digame," 406 Chicago Latino registered voters helped shape the results of a historic poll released earlier this week.

In the country's third largest city, Latinos are almost a third of its population. Still in Chicago elections -- with Latinos making up nearly 1 in 5 registered voters -- they are consistently underrepresented in public opinion surveys. As the Windy City faces its first mayoral runoff election in history, a local firm that's been polling about this race weekly states, "it is clear the Hispanic population under polls." This is a trend consistent across the nation.

Scientific polling in America has been around since 1936. While many of these polls claim to accommodate Spanish speakers -- as the Latino population continues to mature politically -- when will mainstream polls move beyond "accommodating" and fuse methodology that is culturally competent for all voting Americans?

This question is one of the many reasons why my shop, the Latino Policy Forum, along with the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities and Univision Chicago co-sponsored a poll conducted by Latino Decisions, Chicago Latino Voters and the 2015 Mayoral Runoff.

Part of what fascinates me about Latino Decisions and their chosen methodology is that it uses a team of bilingual interviewers who are mindful of the language preference of each respondent. So regardless of how a survey participant answers the phone -- there are no call backs, no robocalls -- live, person-to-person interviews commence in the language of their choice -- which in a city as diverse as Chicago could mean a Latino who prefers to speak English, Spanish or Spanglish. In total 46 percent of interviews were conducted in Spanish and 54 percent in English.

The groundbreaking poll also found:

• Latinos are very enthusiastic about the electoral process with the prospect of Latino representation at City Hall resonating strongly.
• Latinos prefer Garcia over Emanuel 61% to 18%, while 1 in 5 are still undecided.
• Latinos care about many of the same issues other voters care about: schools, safety, and jobs ranked as top priorities.
• Outreach is vital for both campaigns. As many as 65% of registered Latino voters don't recall being contacted.

Full findings can be found at latinopolicyforum.org.