Did Bernie Sanders really win the Latino vote in Nevada?

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The Sanders campaign is sticking to its guns and insisting that it won the Latino vote in Nevada—a claim contested by the Clinton camp following the former Secretary of State's win in that state's democratic primary last Saturday.

An analysis of publicly available voter data distributed to the press by the Sanders campaign concluded that the Clinton camp has "no statistical basis" to back claims that it won most of the Latino vote in Nevada. It maintains that support from young voters helped Sanders win “the Latino vote.”

Both campaigns are hungry to prove their proposals are resonating with Latino and other nonwhite voters. Though Sanders lost Nevada, it was the first battleground state where Latino voters played a significant role. Claiming victory with Latino voters there could boost either candidate's chances of solidifying Latino support in other key states.

Soon after caucuses closed in Nevada on Saturday, the Bernie Sanders campaign sent a statement to journalists declaring Sanders had won the state’s Latino vote.


Ultimately Hillary Clinton carried the state by 5.3%, but the Sanders campaign stressed the vote returns show their campaign is gaining traction with Latinos and other non-white voters.

“What we learned today is that Hillary Clinton’s firewall with Latino voters is a myth,” Arturo Carmona, deputy political director for the Sanders campaign, wrote in the statement sent to the press.

“According to entrance polls Sanders won among Latino voters by 8 points,” read the email. But those numbers may not add up.

Clinton won about 60% of delegates in areas with a heavy Latino population, according to The New York Times, a figure that raises questions about the credibility of the entrance polls cited by the Sanders campaign.


The Times cited a report, issued by a leading research group that focuses on Latinos, showing that “Mrs. Clinton was victorious in the majority of the 40 precincts in Nevada that have more than 50 percent Latino registrants." Given that dominance, the entrance polls cited by Sanders “do not add up,” according to the report from Latino Decisions for the Clinton campaign.


The Sanders campaign is discrediting the methodology used by Latino Decisions.

“The methodology of using heavily Latino or ‘barrio’ precincts to represent Latino voting behavior has been considered ineffective and discarded for more than 30 years due to non-barrio residential patterns common among Latino voters since the 1980’s,” said Antonio González, president of the William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI), a nonpartisan Hispanic research and public policy organization in San Antonio.


“Simply put there is no relevant statistical inconsistency between Edison’s Entry Poll results for Latinos, Whites, and Blacks and the overall election results. Based on this fact WCVI concludes that there is no statistical basis to question the Latino vote breakdown between Secretary Clinton and Sen. Sanders.”

The Sanders campaign says its findings are consistent with Latino voter patterns in other states.


“It is not surprising that we received the support of the Latino community in Nevada, especially since the majority of those that turned out were young Latinos,” said Erika Andiola, a Sanders spokeswoman. “We have consistently seen that the under-35 age group overwhelmingly supports Sen. Sanders, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender. It’s also important to remember that young Latinos live all across Nevada and not just in Clark County.”

The median age of all Latinos in Nevada is 26 years old, compared with a median age of 44 for whites and 33 for blacks, according to Census data.


Here’s what we do know: Nevada doesn’t track voter registration or results by race, so both campaigns are making claims based on their best guesses. There isn’t much evidence that Clinton won Latino voters by a landslide either.

We also know that entrance polls are notoriously unreliable. In Iowa, for example, entrance polls projected a six-point margin of victory for Clinton when in fact she squeaked by on less than 1%. The entrance poll cited in the Sanders email had a margin of error of plus or minus seven points, according to The Washington Post.


The Clinton campaign has been active in Nevada much longer than the Sanders campaign, with Clinton unveiling a glimpse into her immigration policy at a Las Vegas high school in May 2015.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story reported the Sanders campaign commissioned the analysis released by the William C. Velasquez Institute. Antonio González released the statement on his own and the Sanders campaign distributed it to the media.

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