Are More Georgia Latinos Looking To The GOP?

Credit Chris Ferguson / WABE

Exit polls from Tuesday’s midterm election show while nationally Latinos are still voting mostly Democrat, Republicans are cutting into the party’s stronghold. And while Georgia was no exception, some groups dispute the results.As heard on the radio

National exit polls show Republican Governor Nathan Deal took 47 percent of Latino votes, while Republican Senator-elect David Perdue got 42 percent.

Compare that to the 2010 midterms, when Republicans nationally got about 34 percent of that demographic (Latino voting numbers were too small in 2008, the last time the state had a U.S. Senate race, for reliable polling data).

“When it comes to business opportunities and developing a personal economy, I think that our messaging really resonated,” said Leo Smith, who heads minority engagement for the Georgia Republican party.

Smith says the state GOP did virtually nothing to bring in Latinos in 2010, and looked to change that this time around. He said the party a lot of outreach with the Latinos this year, speaking with community leaders, talking with Latino media and using Spanish messaging.

However Smith concedes general exit polling isn’t always accurate for minority groups, and that the numbers may be a little off.

“My hunch is is that we’re probably closer to about 40 [percent], but even 40 would be what a lot of pundits would have thought impossible,” he says.

To Sylvia Manzano of Latino Decisions, a Latino polling firm, those numbers are impossible.

“A combination of small sample size, not actually doing very many interviews with people who are more fluent in Spanish than English, and then the composite of whatever the Latino sample is wind up combining to make for a very flawed picture of the Latino electorate,” she says.

Manazano adds that that most Latino’s tend to live in precincts where they’re the majority population. She said general polling tends to emphasize districts that are more varied, which also tend to include more educated Latinos with higher incomes.

In fact, a survey by Manazano’s group conducted between Oct. 29 and Nov. 3 shows a very different picture of how the state’s Latinos are voting.

Out of 400 Georgia Latinos who’d either already voted or planned to vote this year, 70 percent of respondents picked the Democrat in the governor’s race, while 69 percent picked the Democrat in the Senate race.

Manzano thinks that’s a more accurate representation of how the state’s Latinos are voting, but she says mistakes are made on both sides of the electorate.

“The exits also show that the majority of Cuban Americans didn’t vote for the Republican candidate in Florida this year, and our evidence shows the contrary is true.”

Manazano says it’s not about party; it’s about getting the numbers right.