My colleague, Michael Herron at Dartmouth, and I have just finished crunching the 2012 General Election statewide voter file.

We’ll have lots to report in the coming days about the racial and ethnic voter participation in the November election, including statewide and county breakdowns for early voting and absentee voting. We’ll also have some data to report on the rejection rates of provisional ballots and absentee ballots  across racial and ethnic groups.

But for now, one item that caught my eye this morning was the considerable inflation of supposed Latino voter participation in the 2012 General Election.

According to the 2012 CNN General Election Exit Polls for Florida, (a screen shot is here: Florida2012ExitPoll), Florida’s electorate was:

67% White

13% African American

17% Latino

Further analysis of the Florida exit polls conducted by the Pew Research Hispanic Center immediately after the election, “Latino Voters in the 2012 Election,” found that “Hispanics made up a growing share of voters in three of the key battleground states in yesterday’s election.” According to the report, “Hispanics made up 17% of the Florida electorate this year, up from 14% in 2008.”  The Pew Report continued:

The state’s growing non-Cuban population—especially growth in the Puerto Rican population in central Florida—contributed to the president’s improved showing among Hispanic voters. This year, according to the Florida exit poll, 34% of Hispanic voters were Cuban while 57% were non-Cuban. Among Cuban voters, the vote was split—49% supported Obama while 47% supported Romney. Among the state’s non-Cuban voters, Obama won 66% versus 34% for Romney.

Yet, when matched against the Florida Division of Election’s December 31, 2012 voter file, our analysis suggests that the 2012 exit poll estimates considerably over-inflate the actual Latino makeup Florida’s 2012 electorate.

In 2012, roughly 8.43 million Floridians cast ballots in the General Election.

According to our analysis of the state’s voter history file, a little more than 1 million citizens who self-identified on their voter registration cards as Latino voted in the 2012 election.  That’s only 12.5% of Florida’s 2012 electorate.

In contrast, nearly 14% of Florida’s 2012 actual electorate was African American, close to a full percentage point greater than the exit poll estimates.  White voters were similarly under-represented in the exit poll estimates, as slightly more than 68% of Florida’s 2012 electorate was white.  (Incidentally, Floridians who voted in the 2012 General Election and who identified as “Other” or “Multi-racial” on their voter registration cards tallied less than 2% of the vote in 2012.)

For now, I will leave it for others to interrogate why the 2012 Exit Polls considerably over-inflated Latino turnout in Florida, but I have some suspicions that I will offer down the road as time permits.

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