Opinion: Editorials

Exit polls skip Texas, missing key demographic data

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Photo - TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 29:  Senate Republican Candidate, Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz speaks at the "Patriots for Romney-Ryan Reception" on August 29, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC, which is scheduled to conclude August 30.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 29: Senate Republican Candidate, Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz speaks at the "Patriots for Romney-Ryan Reception" on August 29, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC, which is scheduled to conclude August 30. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Opinion,Editorial

Everyone is looking for bipartisan agreement in the aftermath of the election, and we've found a rare example of it. Sen.-elect Ted Cruz, a Republican, recently said this to the New Yorker about his state of Texas: "If Republicans do not do better in the Hispanic community, in a few short years Republicans will no longer be the majority party in our state." And President Obama, a Democrat, put it this way at a Texas fundraiser in May: "You're not considered one of the battleground states, although that's going to be changing soon."

Unfortunately, the news media evidently don't agree that big changes are underway in Texas. Ahead of last week's election, the National Election Pool -- which does exit polls for the Associated Press and the news networks -- announced it would not be conducting full state-level surveys in 19 states, including Texas.

Certainly, there are many states where this money-saving omission makes sense. But by omitting Texas, even while polling in politically settled states like Illinois, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, the exit pollsters pre-emptively missed the biggest story of the election -- the continued shift of Hispanic voters back toward Democrats since the George W. Bush era.

The National Election Pool was formed after the now-defunct Voter News Service's debacle in collecting information for the 2002 elections. As the new group rightly touts, none of its member media services has called a winner incorrectly since it was put into place in 2004. Yet its data becomes less useful if vital states like Texas are ignored.

We have no right to demand anything of a private organization like the National Election Pool, which spends its members' money collecting so much useful information. But if the group loves election data the way we do, it's made some regrettable decisions lately. In the 2010 midterms, the consortium inexplicably chose not to ask voters whether they were married. They returned that question to this year's survey -- for which they deserve praise -- but an important data point on the "marriage gap" from which Democrats routinely suffer is now lost forever.

Although there was a clear budgetary rationale for omitting Texas from exit polling, it is a far more serious omission. Texas has one of the nation's largest Hispanic populations. It is one of the few states where Republicans have had some success in courting Hispanics, winning as much as 49 percent of their votes in 2004. Have all of those efforts fallen apart in the Obama era? Were Texas Hispanics as sour on Mitt Romney this time as Hispanics in other states? Did they swing further in Obama's direction, as they did in Colorado, or a bit away from him, as they did in Nevada and California? And how did these voters -- mostly Mexican by ancestry -- feel about Cruz, a Cuban-American who speaks with a Texas twang?

We will never know the answers to these questions. And even if this error is rectified in 2016, there will be no way to compare the results with 2012 because, sadly, no one asked the questions.

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