The rollercoaster of polling results in Colorado has been of the more prominent stories of the 2014 election cycle, and it is a story we would expect to see many media outlets revisit once Election Day has finally come and gone. Polling results for various races have been all over the map in the last two months — some more obviously ridiculous than others (we're looking at you, Quinnipiac) — and politicos on both sides of the aisle have been scratching their heads at the mix of numbers.
In 2010, Sen. Harry Reid was engaged in a bitter battle with Sharron Angle. He was headed for a loss, polls said.
Despite polls showing him down about 3% on average, he won by 5.6%. The surprise was largely attributed to Latino voters being polled incorrectly. Nate Silver wrote about this after hearing from Matt Barreto, of Latino Decisions, a polling firm focused on the Latino vote.
Now with the 2014 midterm election looming, Barreto argues to BuzzFeed News that it’s happening again, this time in Colorado where polls show Republican Rep. Cory Gardner leading Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.
“Even if you give other polls the benefit of the doubt and assume the rest of their statewide numbers are correct — if you pull their Latino numbers out and put ours in — instead of Udall being down by 3, he’s up 3 to 4,” Barreto said. [Pols emphasis]
That's a pretty significant swing that is beyond the margin of error in most polls. So how does it happen?
Latino Decisions says that mainstream polls fail in capturing the nuance of the Latino vote because many only poll in English, with small samples of Latinos somewhere in the 40-60 range, whereas they survey 400-600 bilingually. Cell-phone only, Spanish-speaking, lower socio-economic status Latinos are the most Democratic of all Latino voters, they argue, and are the most difficult and costly voters to include in a poll, according to a recent blog post. Polls in English, on the other hand, oversample higher income Latinos who are more likely to lean Republican, according to Barreto.
A recent Latino Decisions/NCLR Action Fund poll found that 66% of Latinos say they will or are likely to vote for Udall, while only 17% said they would definitely or are likely to vote for Gardner. But of those who were interviewed in Spanish, 76% said they will vote for or are likely to vote for Udall.
Interesting food for thought as field operations take over the spotlight.