The Republican Party didn’t do nearly as well among Latino voters in midterm elections as a national exit poll suggests, according to a pollster who specializes in surveying Hispanic voters.
The national survey of Election Day voters showed Republican gains among Hispanics in key races, which the party credited to an outreach plan implemented after GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's poor performance in the 2012 elections.
But pollsters with Latino Decisions said the national exit poll can’t be trusted on Hispanic voting because the sample isn't representative of Latino voters and the vast majority of interviews are conducted in English.
“The sampling design on the national exit poll is not intended to get accurate or representative samples of subgroups like Latinos or Asians,” Matt Barreto, the co-founder of Latino Decisions, told The Huffington Post in an email. “It is just simply not their objective.”
Edison Research, which conducts the national exit poll for a pool of media companies that include ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC and The Associated Press, did not immediately respond to requests for comment or provide details about its methodology for sampling the Latino electorate.
The National Exit Poll showed overall gains for Democrats among Latino voters in congressional elections. Some 63 percent of Hispanics voted for Democrats in races for the U.S. House of Representatives, compared with 35 percent voting for Republicans, according to the poll. This year's poll shows a gain of 6 percentage points for Democrats among Latinos from the 2010 midterms.
But the exit poll also showed that several Republicans performed surprisingly well among Latinos.
Republican Greg Abbott, the Texas governor-elect, won 44 percent of the Latino vote in his state, the exit poll showed. In Kansas, the poll showed that Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, who was re-elected, won 47 percent of the Hispanic vote. Georgia conservative Nathan Deal was re-elected governor with 47 percent of Latinos, according to the exit poll.
While none of those figures amounted to an outright majority, the exit poll results would appear to belie the conventional wisdom that immigration hardliners in the GOP’s right wing undermine the party with Hispanics. The Republican National Committee trumpeted the results as evidence that outreach efforts were working and may point to a formula for expanding the party’s mostly white base ahead of the 2016 presidential elections.
"The Republican mission is to expand our party by expanding the electorate and the results on Tuesday night show that we are succeeding," Ruth Guerra, the RNC director of Hispanic media, said in a statement.
Latino Decisions said the GOP celebration may be premature.
A Latino Decisions poll of 4,200 Hispanic voters in the five days preceding Election Day found far less favorable results for the GOP. Hispanic support for Abbott in Texas polled at only 32 percent -- 12 percentage points less than the exit poll. Latino Decisions said Brownback was winning 31 percent of the Latino vote in Kansas -- 16 points less than the exit poll showed. Deal had 27 percent of the Latino vote in Colorado, according to Latino Decisions -- 20 points lower than what the exit poll showed.
Barreto said the Latino Decisions numbers on Hispanics are more accurate because its sample statistically represents the Latino population and pollsters' interviews were conducted in the language of the respondents’ choice. The national exit poll overrepresented Latinos with advanced educations who lived in the suburbs, Barreto said. For example, Barreto said exit polling in Texas didn’t include precincts in the Rio Grande Valley, home to roughly one-quarter of the state's Latinos.
Taeku Lee, a professor of political science at University of California, Berkeley, who runs a sister polling firm called Asian American Decisions, said the national exit poll also mischaracterized Asian-American voting.
The national exit poll found that only half of Asian-American voters backed Democrats in U.S. House races, a precipitous 17-point decline from the last midterm election in 2010.
But a Bloomberg View report says the exit poll surveyed just 129 Asian-American voters, which Lee said heavily skews the results. By contrast, an Asian American Decisions poll of 1,150 voters found 66 percent of Asian-Americans backed Democrats in this week's congressional elections. Lee said his firm's figure is more in line with previous polling of the community.
“Something in the way they were selecting precincts this time was even more off than it usually is,” Lee said of the national exit poll’s results. “They probably wound up getting some pretty funky precincts.”