New poll: Latino vote will be critical factor in San Diego mayoral election

A new poll released today by Latino Decisions and the Latino Victory Project challenges previous polls in the San Diego mayoral and shows David Alvarez with a commanding lead over Kevin Faulconer among Latino voters who represent 1 in 5 San Diego voters.  Among likely Latino voters, Alvarez was favored by a margin of 75% to just 10% for Faulconer and 15% undecided.  The 65-point gap in favor of Alvarez directly challenges the 4-point gap in favor of Alvarez among Latinos reported in the Survey USA/Union Tribune news poll. Even the newest PPP poll showing a dead heat citywide under-estimates Alvarez lead among Latinos finding a 63-28 lead or a 35-point gap.

The LD/LVP poll also demonstrates Latino voters are following the election closely, however the degree of outreach and mobilization to Latinos has lagged.  Overall, 74% of likely Latino voters say they have been following news about the mayoral elections somewhat or very closely.  Further, 64% say they are very enthusiastic about the chance to vote in the upcoming mayoral election.  One draw for Latinos is likely the opportunity to elect the first Latino mayor of San Diego.  Extensive research in political science finds that Latino voters demonstrate higher levels of political interest and higher levels of voter turnout when given the opportunity to elect the first Latino candidate to mayor. This pattern was clear in Los Angeles a decade ago when Latinos had a higher rate of voter turnout than all other groups in the 2001 and 2005 mayoral elections and Antonio Villaraigosa was the Latino candidate of choice.  The survey asked Latinos how important is it that San Diego elects its first Latino mayor and overall 73% said it was somewhat or very important suggesting the same patterns of heightened interest and voting could be at play in the San Diego runoff election.  However voter outreach and voter mobilization remain critical and to date, only 37% of likely Latino voters said they had been contacted by a campaign or candidate asking them to vote.  If the Latino vote is to be decisive, voter mobilization efforts by both campaigns will be critical.

“Historically Latino candidates for mayor have been successful in mobilizing and winning the Latino vote and this new poll demonstrates the same trend in San Diego.  David Alvarez is overwhelmingly going to win the Latino vote and this could very well propel him to victory.  The critical factor is going to be the rate of Latino mobilization and voter turnout.  If Latino turnout is high, the data suggest Alvarez should win,” said Matt Barreto, co-founder of Latino Decisions. 

The Issues

Not surprising, Latino voters rank jobs and the economy as the top issue for the next Mayor of San Diego to address.  Overall, 37% said jobs and the economy, followed by improving education (17%), repairing the city’s image (13%), housing and city services (10%), pollution and environmental issues (6%). In addition to these issues sure to be on the agenda of the next Mayor, the survey also asked Latino voters how they reacted to a city council immigration resolution from March 2013.  The resolution, introduced by Alvarez called on the city of San Diego to support national immigration reform efforts to specifically include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.  At the time, Faulconer voted against the resolution saying he opposed the path-to-citizenship language in the resolution and wanted more focus on border security.  When asked about each candidate’s position on the March 2013 immigration resolution, 61% of likely Latino voters said Alvarez position made them more enthusiastic about his candidacy compared to 5% who felt less enthusiastic.  In contrast, only 9% said Faulconer’s position made them feel more enthusiastic while 52% said it made them less enthusiastic towards his candidacy.

Why the Other Polls Have Bad Latino Samples

The Latino Decisions/Latino Victory Project poll interviewed a total of 400 Latinos identified as likely voters in the mayoral election by landline and cell phone, and offered surveys in either English or Spanish to Latino voters and contains a margin of error of +/- 4.2%.  Field dates were January 14-18, 2014. In contrast the Survey USA/UT poll interviewed an estimated 103 Latino voters, in English only, and contains a margin of error of +/- 9.6%. The PPP poll interviewed an estimated 99 Latino voters, in English only, and contains a margin of error of +/- 9.7%. In the past, Latino Decisions has proven that English-only robo-polls with small samples of Latinos introduce significant bias and error into the Latino vote.  And in jurisdictions with large Latino populations, such polls also misrepresent the overall vote, as was the case in polls in Nevada 2010 U.S. Senate election, as well as numerous presidential polls in 2012, most notably errors in Florida.

In San Diego, Latinos account for 20% of all registered voters, and poor estimates of the Latino vote can significantly alter the overall polling estimates. For example, using the Latino Decisions polling data for a more accurate portrayal of the Latino vote suggests that the Survey USA/UT poll overstates Faulconer’s support by 6 points citywide, and understates Alvarez’ support by 5 points citywide.  Rather than a 53-37 margin, the actual margin may be 47-42.  Further, this assumes no other errors were made in surveying other populations, notably Asian Americans, which the Survey USA/UT poll suggest have the lowest level of support for Alvarez (29%) of any group in the city.  Given the record support 79% for Obama and the Democratic ticket among California Asian Americans in 2012, it seems highly unlikely Alvarez will only carry 29% of the Asian vote as the Survey USA/UT poll suggests.

In November 2013, the same Survey USA / Union Tribune poll underestimated Alvarez actual support by as much as 10 points.  The Survey USA/UT poll had Alvarez in third place with just 17% of the vote and on election day he finished in second place with 27.2% of the vote.

“In comparing our Latino data to other polls have that been conducted in San Diego there is no question that the other pollsters have completely missed the Latino vote.  Pre-election polls in November 2013 underestimated Alvarez by 10 points and based on their current methodology, the other polls are greatly underestimating Alvarez due to their small and non-representative Latino samples,” said Gary Segura, co-founder of Latino Decisions

A similar critique can be made of the recent PPP poll which did a better job at capturing the Latino vote, but still had a noticeable error.  If we plug the larger sample and more accurate Latino Decisions data in to the PPP poll for Latino voters then Alvarez should have an additional 2.4 percent support citywide, while Faulconer should have 3.6 less support.  Rather than showing a 46-45 result, with more accurate Latino data the PPP poll would show Alvarez leading Faulconer by 5 to 6 points.

Full Topline Results Here

About The Latino Victory Project

The Latino Victory Project, co-founded by Eva Longoria and Henry Muñoz, is an ambitious, non-partisan effort to build political power within the Latino community to ensure the voices of Latinos are reflected at every level of government and in the policies that drive our nation forward. The Latino Victory Project develops leaders for public office while building a permanent base of Latino donors to support them. Partnering with leading national organizations, it shapes public policy that reflects the growing influence of the Latino community while also building cross-constituency alliances that can move the country forward.

About Latino Decisions

Latino Decisions is the national leader in Latino political opinion research. Founded in 2007 by political science professors Dr. Matt A. Barreto (University of Washington) and Dr. Gary M. Segura (Stanford University), the firm quickly gained a national reputation for accuracy and innovation in the study of Latino public opinion. Latino Decisions combines cultural competence and social science expertise to produce the most accurate insights on Latino public opinion available. Research varies from city-level mayoral analysis to U.S. House and Senate, Gubernatorial and Presidential elections.  Latino Decisions is at the center of the national discourse on contemporary American politics and in 2012 Latino Decisions was called the “gold standard of Latino-American polling” by Time Magazine. Thousands of journalists, elected officials, policy analysts, researchers regularly cite Latino Decisions polling.

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