Will A Surging Latino Vote Turn Arizona Blue This Election?

Many of you may recall that back in 2010, we predicted that the backlash created by the politics of anti-Latino bigotry practiced by Sharron Angle and her fellow Republicans was going to create a tsunami of Latino voters who would sweep Sen.

Many of you may recall that back in 2010, we predicted that the backlash created by the politics of anti-Latino bigotry practiced by Sharron Angle and her fellow Republicans was going to create a tsunami of Latino voters who would sweep Sen. Harry Reid to re-election in Nevada. And then it happened exactly that way.

Now, according to Latino Decisions, a similar scenario is cropping up in Arizona, where the nativist politics of Jan "Headless Corpses in the Desert" Brewer, Russell "SB1070" Pearce, and Crazy Joe "Who? Me? Racially Profile?" Arpaio have turned the state into a political cesspool of bigotry. The backlash, it appears, is coming this fall:

In 2010, the average of 16 polls of likely voters in Nevada suggested Sharon Angle had a firm 3 point lead, and 538′s Nate Silver gave her an 83.4% chance of winning. On election night, the results showed Harry Reid with a 5 point win — an 8 point difference from the poll averages. Why the error? Almost every statewide poll in Nevada badly missed the Latino vote. In the final analysis, Reid won close to 90% of the Latino vote, and Latino turnout was much higher than anticipated.

New polling data out of Arizona released by America’s Voice and Latino Decisions suggests Arizona may be much closer than the polling averages indicate. A full 80% of Latinos say they plan to vote for Obama, compared to just 14% for Romney, and Latino enthusiasm is much, much higher in Arizona than the national average. In Latino Decisions national tracking poll 34% of Latinos say they are more excited about voting in 2012 while 36% say they were more excited back in 2008. In Arizona 60% are more enthusiastic in 2012 compared to just 16% who were more enthused in 2008. In October and November 2010 Latino Decisions polling in Nevada was picking up similar trends in Nevada, leading then Washington Post columnist Edward Schumacher-Matos to note on Election Day before the polls closed: “As the Western returns come in tonight, look out for the possibility of a Latino surprise. For the Democrats, a high Latino turnout could possibly save Harry Reid in Nevada.”

If Latino turnout is high in Arizona this year, it will be the Nevada of 2012 that takes the mainstream media by surprise.

David Pinar at Tucson Citizen notes that the problem may well lie in the techniques used by polling companies:

Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions suggested to Nate Silver of the FiveThirtyEight blog at the NY Times how the polls all missed the impact of the Latino vote in Nevada in 2010: All the major polling firms conduct their polls in English only, while Latino Decisions conducts their polls in both English and Spanish, with the respondent selecting the language in which they prefer the poll to be conducted. The major polling firms missed the Latino voters who prefer to speak Spanish. About 40 percent of Latino voters in California meet this description, with likely similar numbers in Nevada and Arizona. Mr. Silver compiled results from the eight states with the largest share of Latinos in their population: these are Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, New York and Texas. He found that in 10 of the 15 races, the polling average underestimated the Democrat’s margin by at least 2.5 points. He concluded that there was the beginnings of a pattern — and considering how rapidly the Latino population is growing, it’s one that pollsters are going to need to address. That was right after the November 2010 election. And less than a month away from the 2012 election, the major polling firms still haven’t addressed that, still conduct their polls in English only, and are likely under representing Latino voters in places like Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and elsewhere.

There may be an even simpler dynamic at work: Many polling firms still do not call people's cell phones (though some firms, notably Gallup, are changing that), and Latinos (especially young ones) are more prone than other ethnic groups to use only cell phones, not land lines. (See Mark Blumenthal for more on this.)

This has produced some strange poll results in Arizona that are only now starting to emerge:

Arizona is home to one of the nation's hottest Senate races. Arizonans are also significantly more cell-only than the overall population, with 38.2 percent of those over 18 living in wireless-only households during 2011, according to CDC estimates. That was a sharp increase from 2010, when 33.2 percent of the adult population was wireless-only -- suggesting that the 2012 cell-only share of the population likely exceeds 40 percent.

For most of the year, it was thought that Republican Rep. Jeff Flake would defeat the Democratic nominee, former Solicitor General Richard Carmona, but the Senate race has closed over the past few months. Both sides released internal polls earlier this week, ranging from a 4-point Carmona lead in polling for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, to a 6-point lead for Flake in polls for his campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee's independent-expenditure arm. (Pollsters for the DSCC and NRSC polls contacted some respondents via cell phone, Hotline On Call confirmed, though these percentages fell short of the cell-only adult population estimate. A pollster for the Flake campaign did not return a phone message on Friday afternoon.)

TThe Morrison Institute at ASU recently produced a fascinating report about "Arizona's Emerging Latino Vote" [PDF file] that observed that, while some of the factors that have long suppressed Latino voting power remain in place there, many of them are crumbling under the weight and energy of young Latino voters in the coming election:

Some political observers — and many activists — believe that 2012 will see a significant turnout among Hispanics in Arizona. For example, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) predicts that Arizona Latino turnout this year will reach 359,000, an increase of 23% over the 2008 presidential election, and will constitute 12% of the total turnout.

These arguments for the sudden increase:

• Many Arizona Latinos have been energized by Senate Bill 1070 and related antiimmigrant measures and rhetoric of the past several years. June’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on SB1070, this view holds, will not blunt those concerns because it upheld the requirement that police officers inquire about individuals’ immigration status under certain circumstances.

• The growing impact of the Latino vote has been demonstrated in the recent electoral victories of President Obama, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, and Phoenix Councilmember Daniel Valenzuela.

• Latino registration rates, while still below that of non-Hispanic Whites, have been increasing. In addition, a coalition of 12 Latino organizations in Arizona has been pursuing what it claims is an unprecedented voter registration drive this year, primarily in Maricopa, Pima, Pinal, Yuma and Santa Cruz counties.

• The reluctance or inability of Latinos (and others) to vote during the workday may diminish as more sign on to receive their ballots in the mail — a major objective of current registration drives for greater Latino participation.

• The Obama campaign and national Democrats argue that Arizona is in play in the presidential race, and promise to mount a strong effort to win the state; drawing out the largest possible Hispanic vote is a component of that strategy.

• Arizona Democrats believe they have a strong Latino candidate for the U.S. senate seat being vacated by the retiring Jon Kyl, a Republican. If so, the candidacy of Richard Carmona, a former U.S. Surgeon General, may bolster registration and voting by Latinos.

The study concludes:

Data and demographics tell us a change in the political face of Arizona is on the horizon with the emerging Latino voter. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

Of course, Jan Brewer blames the Latino wave favoring Democrats on "race baiting" by Democrats -- which reveals, really, their underlying confusion and denalism: It has been real race-baiting by a horde of Republicans, including the current GOP standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, that has driven Latinos into the arms of Democrats.

Evidently, Brewer and Co. are confused by their attempt to redefine "race baiting" to include the act of standing up to bigoted politics. Nice try, wingnuts, but people just aren't that stupid.

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