The Myth of “Hispanic Voters”

As you must certainly know by now, Sen. Barack Obama has won the “Potomac Primary”, the concurrent primaries held by Maryland, Washingon, DC, and Virginia, by significant margins. Coverage like this in the New York Daily News

Though Obama was expected to win all three contests yesterday, the size of his victories wowed seasoned politics watchers. “It’s a blowout,” said the University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato.

The New York senator has looked doomed before and managed to rebound. But large defections of white and Hispanic voters as well as those pulling the lever based on the economy were especially ominous for the former front-runner.

“She’s lost ground with some key constituencies that she needs, including whites and lower-income voters,” said Sabato, noting that for the first time Obama beat Clinton with people who earned less than $50,000.

Obama also eroded Clinton’s past advantage among Latinos, with CNN’s exit polls finding 53% went for Obama in Virginia and 45% in Maryland.

or this from CNN

Obama did well with Democrats across race and gender lines Tuesday night, and seems to be eating away at Clinton’s backbone of support: women.

According to exit polls out of Virginia and Maryland, Obama won roughly 60 percent of the female vote — a demographic that has carried Clinton to success in past primaries. Clinton fared worse among men — more than two-thirds in both states chose Obama.

Meanwhile, Obama scored his highest percentage of African-American support to date, winning close to 90 percent of that voting bloc in each state.

The two evenly split the white vote in Virginia, while Clinton slightly beat Obama among whites in Maryland.

In most past primaries, Clinton has held an edge among white voters. Tuesday, Obama even beat Clinton among Latino voters, a group that has heavily favored Clinton in most past primaries.

In Virginia and Maryland, Latinos went for Obama over Clinton by 6 points, though their support was not decisive in either contest — only 5 percent of Democratic primary voters in Virginia and 4 percent in Maryland were Latino.

are a commonplace.

I think there’s a problem with this analysis. It’s been observed for years that African American voters vote as a bloc, overwhelmingly Democratic, and that’s certainly been the case in the primaries with most African Americans casting their votes for Obama. I don’t believe it’s nearly so true for the group referred to as Hispanics or Latinos.

Heretofore Hillary Clinton has done very well with the group in places like California, Nevada, New York, and New Jersey. But Barack Obama outpolled Hillary Clinton among the group in Virginia. Does this mark the start of a change in fortunes?

I don’t think so. I think it just reflects the reality that voting patterns among the group are much more complex than the way they’re being characterized and, particularly, more complicated than the voting behavior of African American voters. It’s long been observed that Florida’s Cuban American voters vote differently than California’s Mexican American population does, many voting Repoublican. Most of California’s, Nevada’s, New York’s, and New Jersey’s Hispanic voters are Mexican Americans or Puerto Ricans. A hefty proportion of Virginia’s Latino population are Central and South Americans who may not vote in lock-step with Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans.

My advice: don’t plot your trendlines before your data is collected.

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