Ethnic polling specialist Matt Barreto discusses Latino vote
Published: Friday, October 12, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 12, 2012 07:10
Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington Matt Barreto, principal and co−founder of the polling search firm Latino Decisions, spoke at Tufts yesterday about the importance of the Latino vote in the upcoming November 2012 elections.
The event, entitled “Why Latinos Will Decide the Presidential Election: A New Model to Measure the Influence in the 2012 Presidential Election,” was held in the Alumnae Lounge and co−sponsored by the Department of Political Science and the Latino Center, as well as supported by the Tufts Democrats, Tufts Republicans and the Roosevelt Institute.
Barreto is the author of “Ethnic Cues: The Role of Shared Ethnicity in Latino Political Behavior” (2010) and has recently co−authored “Change We Can’t Believe In: Exploring the Sources and Consequences of Tea Party Support,” which will be published in 2013. Barreto is also the director of the Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity & Race and director of the annual Washington Poll.
The event began with Barreto outlining common misconceptions about Latino voters, including two mistakes that reporters often make.
“On the one hand they talk about the Latino vote, that all Latinos are the same,” he said. “The opposite is that the Latinos have too many segments and are too diverse. These are both false premises. They ignore important differences, but they also discount our similarities.”
However, he explained that Latinos mostly agree on the topic of immigration, according to the polls that Latino Decisions has conducted. He said that 75 percent of Latino voters support the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a piece of legislation that makes it easier for young immigrants to attain American citizenship.
“When we asked the question nationally, across almost any segment, including among Latinos who identify as Republican, there is strong support for [the DREAM Act] in the Latino community,” Barreto said. “Immigration has become such a dominating issue.”
55 percent of Latinos who are registered to vote mentioned that they have a family member, friend or co−worker who is an undocumented immigrant, according to Barreto.
“Among those, one out of six said there was someone in their family who was undocumented,” he said.
Increasing the percentage of Latinos who register and vote would have a huge impact on the upcoming election, including the presidential, senate and gubernatorial races, he said.
Barreto demonstrated the importance of increasing the Latino voter turnout by displaying his website LatinoVoteMap.org.
“What we’ve done is we’ve taken all of the surveys that we’ve done about Latino decisions, which is thousands and thousands of interviews, and we’ve put in the Latino vote in every state,” he said.
The website features a visual, interactive tool in which viewers can slide markers to alter the percentage of Latinos who vote and who they vote for. The resulting data shows the effect that increased turnout can have on the outcome of the presidential election.
For example, Barreto explained that according to the visual map, presidential candidate Mitt Romney would have a smaller chance of winning against President Barack Obama if more Latinos vote.
Latino voters may also have an impact on the Massachusetts Senate race between candidates Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown, he added.
“Beyond the presidential election, Latino voters will be important in deciding the senate and gubernatorial elections,” he said.
Barreto then described the results of one of his exit polls, in which he asked Latinos why they voted.
“[Almost] 43 percent said the reason they voted was not because of the candidate, but was because they wanted to support and give a voice to the Latino community,” he said.
He concluded by encouraging Latinos to vote, explaining that an increase in Latino voter turnout would benefit the entire Latino community.
“Vote just to represent your community,” Barreto said. “Vote even if you don’t like the candidates. More people will be paying attention to the Latino American community.”