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October 31st, 2012:

Are Texas Latinos like Latinos elsewhere or not?

Latino Decisions bemoans a disconnect between its poll numbers for Latino voters and what it’s seeing in the crosstabs of other recent national polls.

In 1998 Harry Pachon and Rudy de la Garza wrote a report for the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute titled “Why Pollsters Missed the Latino Vote – Again!” in which they argued that polls across California failed to accurately account for Latino voters in their samples, and that pre-election polls statewide were fraught with errors as a result.  Pachon and de la Garza argued that “mainstream” pollsters failed to account for Latinos for three primary reasons: 1) their sample sizes of Latinos were far too small; 2) their Latinos samples were not representative of the Latino population within the state; and 3) they were not interviewing Latinos in Spanish at the correct proportions.  THIS WAS 14 YEARS AGO (yes I am screaming).

In 2010 Gary Segura and I wrote that not much had changed and polls continued to mis-represent the Latino vote.  It is now well-known that polls in Nevada had small, unrepresentative and biased samples of Latinos, leading them to entirely miss Harry Reid’s 5-point lead over Sharron Angle.  Two weeks ago, Nate Silver wrote at 538 that some polls seem to be continuing the same mistakes and under-counting and mis-counting Latino voters, which he had originally picked up, and wrote about the day after the 2010 midterms.  Around the same time some new polls started appearing in states like Nevada and Florida with bizarre data for Latino voters – Obama only had an 8 point lead among Nevada Latinos, and Romney was actually ahead among Latinos in Florida.  Really?

No.

And now the worst offenders might be the newest batch of national polls are attempting to estimate the national Obama-Romney horse race numbers. Monday October 22, Monmouth University released a poll in which Romney leads Obama 48% to 45%. Among Latinos, they report Obama leads by just 6 points – 48% to 42%.  These numbers are such extreme outliers that even Romney campaign surrogates would have a hard time believing them.  While Monmouth is the most recent, there have been many national polls with equally faulty numbers among Latinos.

Keep that 48 to 42 number in your head and let’s compare across a variety of recent polls of Latino voters.  As a matter of self-interest, we’ll start with four recent impreMedia-Latino Decisions tracking polls in October.  The last four polls released by IM/LD have found the Latino vote nationally at 71-20; 67-23; 72-20; 73-21.  Don’t like those? NBC/Telemundo have released two polls in October of Latinos, putting the race at 70-25, and 70-20 just before that. And then there was the Pew Hispanic Center poll 10 days ago which had Obama 69-21 over Romney, and just before that CNN did a poll of Latinos putting the national vote at 70-25.  Okay – that’s eight national polls of Latino voters in the month of October and the average across all eight is 70.3% for Obama to 21.9% for Romney.

They’re currently predicting a three to one margin among Latino voters for Obama, which would significantly exceed his 2008 performance. While it should be noted that not everyone buys their numbers, it has also been the case that traditional pollsters blew it in Nevada in 2010 by underestimating the Latino vote. As always, we’ll get an objective answer to this question soon enough.

What I want to know, of course, is how will this affect Texas? Specifically, if it’s the case that the LD folks are right, are the pollsters here making the same mistake? Here’s a summary of the most recent Texas polls, with numbers given for the subsample of Latino respondents:

Pollster Obama Romney ====================================== Latino Decisions Avg 70 22 YouGov 61 35 Lyceum 62 32 Wilson Perkins 66 32

These numbers are off from the LD polling average, but not that far off. It’s plausible that they are accurate, but given the very small sample sizes it’s also plausible that they are understating Obama’s support here in Texas. The data is just very noisy and hard to get a handle on. The 2008 numbers in Texas quite clearly show that Obama underperformed the Democratic average in heavily Latino areas. Some of that might have been lingering love for Hillary Clinton, but regardless the Republican Party, both nationally and in Texas, has done a lot to alienate Latino voters, and the numbers reflect that. None of the national outfits that track Latino voters have anything specific to say about Texas Latinos. The ImpreMedia/Latino Decision tracking poll consists of “300 completed interviews with Latino voters across all 50 states”. The most recent NBC Telemundo poll had no data breakdown that I could find. The most recent Pew Hispanic Center poll is “based on a nationally representative bilingual telephone survey of 1,765 Latino adults, including 903 registered voters”. Intriguingly, they say that while Obama leads 65% to 23% in nine battleground states, he has a larger 70% to 21% lead elsewhere, which in that case includes Texas.

Admittedly, Texas Republicans, at least at the administrative level, are aware of the issues and have worked to court Latino voters, with some success. I am certainly not dismissing the idea that they will get more votes here from Latino voters than the GOP will in other states. Still, as far as I can tell nobody is specifically polling Texas Latinos, and there will be no exit polling done in Texas this year, which will leave a hole in the data set. I have some thoughts as to how I might approach this question after the election, but that will have to wait. For now, the answer to the question that inspired this post is “I just don’t know”. Stace has more.

Eight billion dollars

That’s how much is needed per year to make public education whole.

Lynn Moak

Lynn Moak told state District Judge John Dietz that it will take more than $8 billion a year in additional money to get students on target to graduate and to meet new college and career readiness standards. About 150,000 9th-grade students, or 47 percent of last year’s freshman high school class, are not on track to graduate, according to the state’s more rigorous academic standards, Moak told the court.

“We are in a current crisis. The crisis gets worse in the future,” Moak said during a break in the hearing. “The crisis is sufficient now to demand action.”

[…]

Moak told Dietz it will take about $6 billion in additional money per year to adequately educate Texas students, on top of restoring $2.65 billion per year in education cuts that lawmakers made last year to help balance the budget.

“If we don’t see improvement, you will see even larger numbers of students at risk of not being able to graduate,” Moak told the judge, who said he planned to grill policy experts on both sides.

[…]

The new accountability standards are hitting low-income students the hardest. Only 40 percent of them have passed all of the 9th grade tests, which are required for high school graduation.

The number of low-income students increases each year and now makes up more than 60 percent of Texas’ 5 million K-12 public school enrollment. Low-income students generally cost more to educate because many arrive in kindergarten or first grade with less-developed vocabularies and other skills than children from middle- and upper-income families.

Republican legislators last year cut $4 billion from public education formulas and another $1.3 billion in special grants, such as full-day Pre K programs for low-income children and student success initiatives for tutoring and summer school programs to help struggling students.

Moak said he could not assess the impact on schools and students.

“I do not know of any significant legislative review to determine if these programs were not needed or were not producing good results,” he said.

Spending per student in Texas peaked at $7,415 in 2009, and has dropped to $6,293 in 2013, Moak said.

I don’t expect there to be any significant legislative review. I don’t think the authors of these cuts want to know what their effect was. The Statesman notes that while only 40 percent of low-income kids are passing the required tests, 69% of non-economically disadvantaged students are passing. You can expect that gap to grow.

All this came from direct testimony – the state had not had the chance to cross-examine Moak as of the writing of those stories – so there will likely be more of these depressing numbers to come. The Moak, Casey website is a pretty good resource for following the trial on a blow-by-blow basis. Here’s an interesting tidbit from their embedded Twitter feed: “Moak: from 10-11 to 11-12 school year, 26.5k fewer teachers and staff while Texas schools added 44.5k students #schoolfinancetrial #txlege”. With numbers like that, what happened next should not surprise us.

If no one owns the problem then no one will fix it

Reading this Chron story about the problem of voter registrations done via the Department of Public Safety, it’s clear why this is an ongoing issue.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Neither the DPS nor the secretary of state tracks motor voter complaints. Nor can state officials say whether any individual offices or workers process abnormally low numbers of new drivers’ voter applications, DPS officials said.

Unexplained dips sometimes show up in monthly motor voter registration statistics, the Chronicle found in its analysis of registration data from the secretary of state. For example, only 41 Fort Bend voters registered or updated registrations via the DPS in May 2012 – compared with 913 in April and 1,402 in June, according to data gathered by the secretary of state.

Spokesmen for DPS and the secretary of state recommended that anyone who fails to get their voting cards within 30 days after attempting to register call state or local election officials.

[…]

Former Harris County clerk Beverly Kaufman often heard similar complaints during her years overseeing elections. “The voter registration end of the deal is not a priority of the clerks,” Kaufman said. “It sounds to me like the secretary of state could play a key role in getting everyone around the table and addressing that issue.”

[Fort Bend County Voter Registrar John] Oldham said he’s long been concerned about voter confusion over a two-step process that voters use when they renew their drivers’ license via a DPS website, which then links them separately to the secretary of state site to update their voter registration.

He said he hasn’t heard as many complaints from voters who attempted to register in person at a DPS office, though he dealt with similar issues back when he worked on elections in Illinois.

“The acceptance of voter registration among (state) agencies varies a lot because most of them don’t want to do it,” he said. “It’s an annoyance to them – some are excited about it, some don’t care … you have to assume they’re doing it. Because it’s the law.”

Very simply, nobody owns this. The DPS and the Secretary of State don’t see it as a priority, or they’d at least be able to comment on why the number of registrations processed can vary so wildly from month to month. Rick Perry has no reason to care about this, so he’s sure not going to make them make it a priority. The best that could happen at this time would be for a legislator who has the ability to stick it to DPS or the SOS in the budget to take this up as a cause and bludgeon these two agencies into doing an audit or something. But until a Secretary of State is appointed who wants to fix this and implement a better process with better technology – and fight for the budgetary means to do it – we’ll hear the same stories in 2014 and 2016.

Mapping oil usage

From the Natural Resources Defense Council

America buys 18.8 million barrels of petroleum products every day, accounting for more than 20% of all global usage. This can drain roughly $1 billion on average every day out of the economy. This oil use also accounts for more than a quarter of the heat-trapping carbon pollution emitted by various sources in the U.S.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters developed an interest in a more detailed understanding for the causes of our addiction. Specifically, we were curious about which geographic areas were most oil dependent, and thus, driving the country’s oil addiction the most.

First, we looked at all the total 2010 oil consumption in every county in the United States. We visualized that oil consumption in the map below.

gasoline consumption map.JPG

We can determine the nation’s oil addiction “hot spots” based on the figures plotted in the map above. It turns out a disproportionately small number of counties in metropolitan regions drive the nation’s oil use. In fact, just 108 counties out of the nation’s 3,144, or about 3.5% of the total consume more than 10% of the nation’s oil. This suggests that we should target policies and practices aimed at reducing oil dependence to a small geographic portion of the nation.

Consumption per person in these top oil-guzzling counties can give help further with targeting; those counties with high per-capita consumption levels afford the biggest opportunities for reductions. For example, Los Angeles County’s population is much larger than Dallas County’s, on average each person consumed much less in the former. If the per capita consumption in the latter were halved, while still higher than the average Los Angeleno it could save more than a half-million gallons of gasoline a year! 

Top 10 Counties Driving Our Oil Addiction

RankingofCounties.JPG*Note: The Missouri figures stood out as an outlier in the data set, possibly due to poor or inconsistent reporting so both on the map and in this table the numbers should be taken with a giant grain of salt.

On the other hand the Houston area and Dallas area are particularly addicted to oil, both in total and per person use. To find out more about where your county stacks up in this picture, click here to access and use a cool googlemap designed by friends at the Sierra Club.

I went looking for this after spotting this Express News story and figuring there had to be more to it than that. DC Streetsblog adds on to the conversation, but I have to agree with their commenters that per capita consumption is the better way to think of this. Still, it’s useful information and a reminder that another spike in gas prices will have a greater effect on the Houston area than other parts of the country. A growth strategy geared towards more and more development of the exurbs just isn’t going to be sustainable in the long term.