Karen Sue SmithJune 23, 2008

George W. Bush’s victory in 2004 has been credited to Latino voters. Some political commentators have even claimed that a majority of Latinos elected Bush in the 2004 presidential election. The statistics disprove the latter claim. Yet Latino votes in certain swing states did lead to a Bush win. Here’s how.

In November 2004 the exit polls differed: the news media gave Bush 44 percent of the Latino vote; the Velasquez Institute tallied it at 33 percent; the Annenberg survey put it at 41 percent. None of these shows a majority.

John F. Harris, writing in The Washington Post (12/26/04), used the Annenberg survey to eliminate the role of Hispanic women in giving Bush his win (Bush’s support among Hispanic women rose by “a statistically insignificant 1 percentage point, to 36 percent”) and to highlight the role of males and Protestants: “Protestant Hispanics gave Bush a clear majority,” wrote Harris.

In four swing states that year (New Mexico, Florida, Nevada and Colorado), Latinos made up a sizeable percentage of the electorate. President Bush won in each by a margin of 5 percent or less.

Writing in National Review, Richard Nadler explained the high Latino vote for Bush. “In states where conservative 527 groups, such as Council for Better Government and Hispanics Together…ran intensive campaigns on Spanish-language media,” Nadler wrote, “the president’s Hispanic vote share increased sharply. In states where no such effort occurred, his Latino vote share improved hardly at all.” In the six battleground states, where 527 groups ran 12,000 spot broadcast campaigns on Spanish-language media, Bush carried 47.17 percent of the population-weighted Latino vote, compared with 52.25 percent for Kerry. In states without such campaigns, Bush’s support among Latinos was 35.9 percent. Two of the campaign advertising scripts highlighted the president’s immigration policy, but in the rest the content dealt with “traditional marriage, tax breaks for families and small business, school choice, military preparedness, the right to life, personal savings accounts, and faith-based social-service delivery,” wrote Nadler.

In June 2005, a report by the Pew Hispanic Center concluded: “Hispanic Protestants made up a larger share of the Latino vote (32 percent in 2004 compared with 25 percent in 2000), and 56 percent of these voters supported the president in 2004, compared with 44 percent in 2000.” What about the Latino Catholic vote? The authors found that Bush’s share “remained unchanged.”

In sum, a majority of Protestant Latino voters in six highly contested states, states that were effectively targeted by 527 groups, added enough votes to give Bush a narrow victory there.

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