The company that conducted the entrance polls of Nevada’s Democratic caucuses showing Hillary Clinton lost the Hispanic vote stood by its research Sunday in the face of an aggressive push back by the former secretary of state’s campaign.
“Like any other poll, each campaign is going to try to pick out data that helps their cause,” said Joe Lenski, executive vice president of Edison Research.
Entrance polls conducted by Edison indicated that Bernie Sanders won the Hispanic vote over Clinton in Nevada by 8 percentage points, a sign of potetnial weakness for Clinton even as she won Nevada overall.
Clinton’s camp angrily disputed those numbers, saying it wasn’t possible to lose the Hispanic vote since she won Hispanic-majority precincts as well as Clark County, home of Las Vegas and the most heavily Hispanic part of the state.
Clinton herself disputed the loss of the Hispanic vote.
“You know, that’s just not what our analysis shows, number one,” she said on CNN’s State of the Union program. “We don’t believe that the so-called entry polls were particularly accurate. If you look at the precincts, you look at where we dominated, there’s a lot of evidence we did very, very well with every group of voter.”
Clinton’s campaign late Sunday released a report from Latino Decisions, a polling firm that works with campaign, arguing that the entrance polls “do not add up.”
In a report sent to the news media, Latino Decisions cited three reasons: Clinton won Clark County by 11 points; the entrance poll numbers are flawed because they showed Clinton winning 51.1 percent of the caucus vote when she actually won 52.7 percent; and entrance and exit polls have historically done a poor job at capturing a representative sample of Hispanics, especially in Nevada.
Latino Decisions said Edison did not provide enough basic information for the firm to assess its accuracy from a “social science and polling perspective.”
Ultimately, there is no way to ever know for sure who won the Hispanic vote because official voting results don’t break down votes by race.
Lenski said Edison polled 1,024 caucus-goers – which he called a large enough sample and roughly the same size as the polls in the last two caucuses in Nevada – at 25 caucus locations with a margin of error of plus or minus seven percent.
He said Sanders’ numbers were driven by dramatic differences in Hispanics by age. According to the poll, Sanders won Hispanic caucus-voters aged 17-29 by 83-12 percent, and Clinton won those aged 30 and older by 65-34.
A similar split in age groups was seen in the first two states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist who talks about launching a “political revolution,” has been resonating with new and young voters frustrated with Washington.
Clinton scored a decisive victory in Nevada regardless of who won the Hispanic vote. But both campaigns claimed they won the Hispanic vote because it’s an important barometer for other diverse states to come, including Texas and Colorado, and it enables them to assure supporters of their broad electoral strength.
Sanders won the Hispanic vote by 53 percent to 45 percent, according to entrance polls
“What we learned today is Hillary Clinton’s firewall with Latino voters is a myth,” said Arturo Carmona, Sanders’ deputy political director. “The Latino community responded strongly to Bernie Sanders’ message of immigration reform and creating an economy that works for all families. This is critically important as we move ahead to states like Colorado, Arizona, Texas and California.”
Lenski cited several other explanations for the numbers.
Some younger Hispanics, particularly college students, might not live in the majority-Hispanic precincts the Clinton campaign refers to. The Democratic Party does not release the initial preferences of all 80,000 caucus-goers, just which delegates the candidates received. And he said three percent of caucus-goers were undecided or may have changed their mind after they went into a caucus location.
Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in New York, which is not affiliated with the entrance polls, said it is possible, but not probable, with a seven percent margin of error for Clinton to have win the Hispanic vote.
“It’s the first state with diversity,” he said. “We’ll see if the pattern holds.”
Edison conducts polls of participants as they go into caucuses in Nevada as well as Iowa on behalf of TV networks and the Association Press.
Lenski said that entrance and exit polls, especially in states that conduct caucuses instead of primaries, are often disputed by those who don’t like the results. “All we can do is being as transparent are possible,” he said.