“As you read about Latino political behavior over the next few months, here are a few things you should know about Latino research and polling that will help you evaluate the polls on your own.”
In the 2016 “the Latino vote” will be crucial, but the group’s political behavior can seem all over the place. The media is quick to publish stories accompanied by surveys because numbers hold an authority; but polls have misrepresented the Latino community. There are some things you should look for to verify these polls. The sample size matters, and they should be based on surveys that interviewed around 1,000 Latinos. The language barriers could bar a significant portion of their community from participating in English-only surveys. You also have to know they are a younger ethnic group and will be skewed in their favor: they’ll be concerned about social issues and the environment. Regional differences in the United States hold different Latino communities; Mexicans settle more in the Southwest, while Cubans and Puerto Ricans gravitate toward Florida. Questionnaires can use language that yields different results; people’s answers change if the term “illegal alien” or “amnesty” is used. Also look at who is funding the poll, reputation matters and many groups may have political agendas. How the polls are reaching the participants matters too, and can reflect other fault lines like age and wealth. You also have to realize the limitations of surveys, with margin of errors and that respondents will respond differently due to different environmental factors. Polling is a difficult process, but – when done right – it is necessary.