The Latino turnout mystery in Nevada



Much has been made of the high Latino vote in Nevada helping Hillary Clinton to a rare win a battleground state, and Catherine Cortez Masto to victory in the U.S. Senate race.

It was significant, but how significant?

Conflicting data already has emerged via entrance and exit polls.

Here’s what has been done:


►Exits: The Nevada exit polls indicated Latino turnout here was 18 percent, which is what they indicated about 2012. That’s less than the 20 percent Democrats had hoped for and predicted before Nov. 8. The exit polls also indicated that only 60 percent of Latinos voted for Clinton with 29 percent going for Trump. That intuitively seems wrong to me, but is it? The national exit polls showed similar numbers.

Entrances: These were conducted by Latino Decisions in the days leading up to the balloting, and showed a much different result in Nevada: 81 percent for Clinton and 16 percent for Trump. That would seem to make more sense than the exits. Or does it?

I’d point out that in 2012, Latino Decisions’ entrance polling showed President Obama defeating Mitt Romney by 80-17 among Latinos. So if Clinton’s numbers essentially are the same, why did she win the state by 2 points and Obama by almost 7? And the difference in Clark County numbers – Obama won Clark County by 100,000 votes and Clinton by 81,000 (with 150,000 more registered voters) -- indicates that the exits may be closer to the truth than some activists want to acknowledge.


Exits: They showed Cortez Masto defeating Joe Heck by 61-32 among Hispanics. That is, very similar to Clinton’s numbers. And, it should be noted, their ultimate results were very close – both won the state by about 2 percent.

Entrances: In the Latino Decisions poll, Cortez Masto won Hispanics by 79-19. Again, the gap is much larger for her in this survey than in the exits. Cortez Masto won Clark County by 82,000 votes, almost identical to Clinton’s margin.

So what are the real Latino numbers? We may not know until the data specialists dig deeper into the results once the actual numbers are certified and uploaded to the voter file.

Exit polls can be very unreliable -- indeed, they showed Clinton winning the state by 6 (although they had Cortez Masto winning by 3, which was quite close). But entrance polls also can be skewed because some of those people may not actually vote.

It's also true that it is a bitter pill for activists to swallow that Clinton just could not engage Hispanics -- and other cohorts, too -- as Obama did, even though Latino turnout in Clark County was high, if not record-setting.

The ultimate Nevada question is this:

Even though Obama won Washoe County by 3 points while Clinton barely won there (and Cortez Masto barely lost) and even though Clinton lost the rurals by much more than Romney – 57,000 vs. 40,000 votes – is that enough to justify what those entrances say about Latino turnout, even though the Clark County numbers show a relative underperformance by the Democrats?

It’s a hard sell.