Hillary Clinton’s Decisive Win in California Points to Flaws in Latino Polling

Lead Photo: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times
Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times
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On Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton decisively beat Bernie Sanders in California. However, ahead of the California primary on Tuesday, several polls reported that Sanders had closed the gap in the West Coast state and that he could keep Clinton from finishing strong. And with Sanders reportedly cutting into Clinton’s lead, Latino outreach became a vital part of both team’s campaign strategies. Comparing states like Florida, Texas, and New York, FiveThirtyEight found that in California, Clinton struggled with Latinos. “In California, by contrast, recent polls do not show Clinton performing especially well with Hispanics,” the site reads. “Instead, they have her winning them by about 7 percentage points, on average, similar to her overall lead on Sanders.”

Clinton ended up with 56 percent of the vote in California. Further breaking down the vote reveals that counties with an at least 50 percent Latino population in 2011, all chose Clinton. In Imperial County, which has the highest Latino population at 81 percent, Clinton led with about two-thirds of the vote.

A few months ago, Mark Di Camillo, president of the Field Poll, said that the Latino community in California started switching from Clinton to Sanders. “Something unusual is happening in the Latino community,” he said, according to La Opinion. “It seems they are reconsidering Clinton and many have gone with Sanders. Now the Latino vote is in dispute.” However, Clinton had the backing of the most prominent Latino leaders in California. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, and U.S. Rep. Xavier Bercerra back her. And 20 members of the California Latino Legislative Caucus also endorsed Clinton.

As stats genius Nate Silver points out, what went down before California’s primary is representative of a bigger problem: pollsters don’t understand the Latino population. According to a May article on NBC, “Recent polls have shown great differences in what Latinos think about the candidates and how they will vote.” The article goes on to point out how polling too few Latinos (less than 1,000), language barriers, and lack of geographic diversity can lead to skewed results. Visit NBC to learn more about how polls on Latinos get it wrong.