Wait ’til Election Day

Don’t count your Latinos before they vote

Adrian Perez is the publisher of the Latino Journal.

A recent poll indicated that Latino support for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama was triple that for the Republican candidate Sen. John McCain. Yet my politically active Latino family and friends tell me that either they’re going to make up their mind right before the election, or they’re voting for McCain.

Are these early election polls so important? And how do we know they are asking the right questions?

The last time I was polled, I was asked who I would vote for if the election was held that day. The pollster provided a list of names. None of them were people I would vote for, but I felt obligated to provide an answer for my opinion to count, so I gave them the least-objectionable name.

On Election Day, I voted for someone who wasn’t on that list. So much for including me in the polls. But that leads me to believe there are other individuals out there who, like me, provide an answer just to feel important, then cast their ballot for someone else.

If the pollster asked a more direct question instead of a hypothetical, I’d be more inclined to tell the truth. To test this theory, I asked my family members who will get their vote for president in November. The results were nowhere near what national pollsters are saying about Latino voters.

My results were 70 percent for McCain and 30 percent for Clinton. Of those I polled, three are registered “decline to state,” five are registered Democrats and two are registered Republican. If you read the research report released last January by the California Public Policy Institute, mi familia closely reflects California’s voter registration trends.

But why would three of my family members pick Sen. Hillary Clinton over nominee Obama?

Clinton handily won the states with the largest Latino population during the primaries: California, Florida, New York and Texas. But political experts say the key states for this year’s election will be Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Nevada. While these states have Latino voters, the numbers are nowhere near the states with the largest Latino populations.

I asked those who selected Clinton: Why vote for her, knowing that she’s no longer in the race? The responses were pretty unanimous: She’s a real leader and a woman. They would trust her over Obama to address the nation’s economic problems and international relations because she has been there already. Besides, they noted, Clinton has only suspended her election campaign and has not actually quit. Could this be what Latinos across the nation are actually thinking?

My survey wasn’t scientific, but it’s still a poll that says Obama does not have Latinos in hand. And if I were Obama’s political strategist, I’d want to reevaluate all the polls, because if mine is accurate, McCain will be our next president.