Hispanic Vote Less For Bush Than Exit Polls Showed

James W. Brosnan, Scripps Howard, Dec. 2

WASHINGTON—Initial network exit polls on Election Day overestimated President Bush’s support among Hispanic voters, an NBC official said Thursday.

Revised figures show Bush received 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, not 44 percent, said Ana Maria Arumi, elections managers for NBC News. That would still be a 5-percentage point gain for Bush over Democrat John Kerry compared to the 2000 race against Al Gore.

“The Republicans have made significant increases in the Latino vote,” Arumi said at a panel discussion sponsored by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Another pollster, Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Velasquez Institute in Los Angeles, said the group’s exit polls showed Bush receiving 35 percent of the Hispanic vote, the same percentage as in 2000.

“There was not a significant change in the partisanship of the Latino vote,” Gonzalez said.

Republicans have trumpeted the 44 percent figure as evidence of a major shift by Hispanic voters toward the GOP. And in the last few weeks Bush has nominated two Hispanics to his Cabinet—his legal counsel Alberto Gonzales to be attorney general and Kellogg chief executive officer Carlos Gutierrez as secretary of the Commerce Department.

The major television networks used pollster Warren Mitofsky to sample 250 key precincts on Election Day. Arumi said the exit poll over sampled in South Florida where Republicans are strong among Cuban-Americans.

For the revised figures the networks combined 50 state exit polls, which reflected more than 70,000 interviews, Arumi said.

Nationwide, Bush’s strongest Hispanic support came in suburbs, small towns and rural counties, she said. The other significant finding is that Protestant Hispanics, who make up 32 percent of that population, voted 56 percent for Bush while Catholic Hispanics continued to vote Democratic.

Adam Segal, director of the Hispanic Voter Project at Johns Hopkins University, said the Bush campaign did a much better job of targeting issues in its ads directed to Hispanic voters while Kerry mostly ran “feel good” ads.

Jose de la Isla, author of the “Rise of Hispanic Political Power,” said the election results seem to show a slight tilt toward Bush. He said Hispanics, like African-Americans, are increasingly looking to the character of the candidate, not party affiliation.

“The era of racial politics in the U. S. is probably at an end,” he said. “We’re into relationship politics.”

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