06/07/2007 04:49 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How Many Republican Hispanics in California?

An item posted earlier this week by Mickey Kaus noted findings among
Hispanic Republicans in California
from a SurveyUSA
automated poll on the 2008 Republican presidential primary. Kaus pointed out
that California Hispanic Republicans "[make] up 17% of ‘likely Republican
Primary voters' in Survey USA's
model" [it was 15% in a previous survey]. That post may have been what prompted
Pollster reader Jerry Skurnick to comment:
"This poll says that 17% of Republican Primary voters are Hispanic. Isn't that

I asked two California
pollsters for their reactions (and a little data) and both agreed that a 15-17%
Hispanic composition was highly unlikely for a Republican primary in that state
in 2008.

Susan Pinkus, polling director for the Los Angeles Times,
checked the racial composition in LA Times California exit polls for Republican
primaries. She found that in 1992, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004 the Latino
share of the Republican vote was always somewhere between 3% and 6%.

Of course, California's
Hispanic population has been growing
. Last month, I saw a presentation at the AAPOR conference by the
Field Poll's Mark DeCamillo that noted the rapid growth and influence of California's Latino vote.
I emailed him for a reaction and received the following response:

Most Latinos who are registered to
vote in California
are registered as Democrats. Regarding Latino voting in the upcoming CA primary
elections, we estimate that only about 1 in 10 likely GOP primary voters (10%)
would be Latinos, whereas as many as one in four (25%) of likely voters in the
Democratic primary would be Latino.

So, in answer to your question, no I don't think it is likely that Latino
voters will comprise 15% + of the GOP primary vote in CA.

Another bit of data that may be instructive: The NEP network
exit poll consortium has not polled in a California Republican primary since
the 1990s. However, they have done exit polls in general elections and these
show the Latino contribution for all voters (Republicans, Democrats
and independents) to be 19% in 2006
and 21% in 2004.

I asked SurveyUSA's Jay Leve for a reaction and received this

SurveyUSA polled CA statewide GOP primaries in 2004 and 2002, using
almost identical methodology. Comparing SurveyUSA to SurveyUSA may offer
context. In the 2004 CA GOP Primary, SurveyUSA showed 19% of GOP primary voters
to be Hispanic (Hispanic on the ballot for U.S. Senate). In 2002, SurveyUSA
showed 11% of CA GOP Primary voters to be Hispanic (no Hispanic on the ballot).
Last month, SurveyUSA showed 15% of CA GOP Primary voters to be Hispanic.
Today, 17%. I welcome this careful inspection of our data. No state is better
served by its local pollsters - Field, LA Times, PPIC, San
Jose State, Datamar
and others - than is California.
We have much to learn from them.

Leve also sent along the following table showing how his
final survey performed in the 2004 Republican primary featuring a Hispanic
candidate (Rosario Marin). His implicit point is that his poll provided an accurate
forecast of the outcome of that race - and a closer projection of Marin's
support than other polls - despite having a percentage of Hispanic voters (19%)
that was apparently far out of line with what the LA Times exit poll showed.


So the bottom line: The current SurveyUSA estimate of Latino
voters does seem to be on the high side, although these sorts of comparisons
can be difficult because the "right" number is impossible to determine with any
certainty. Keep in mind that all of the above comparisons are based on surveys of
one kind or another. Exit polls are arguably our best gauge of who votes, but
as we have all learned the hard way, exit polls are also subject
to sampling variation and non-sampling errors of their own.

I should also point out that we are able to "inspect" the
demographic composition of SurveyUSA data because they choose to release it for
every survey they conduct along with the substantive results. I wish I could
say the same for most other public pollsters, including those at Field and the LA
Times (who, of course, kindly responded as they always do to my requests for additional
data). Our comment boards have been alive lately with perfectly valid questions
about the reliability of new surveys in states like Iowa,
New Hampshire and South Carolina. If poll consumers could make
these sorts of demographic comparisons for every survey, we would all be better