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MSNBC’s Morning Joe hyped one poll to suggest 30 percent of Latino Nevada voters support Trump, but the survey’s participants who fit the description of Latino likely voters provided such a small sample size that Morning Joe’s blanket statement was likely inaccurate.
On the September 29 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, co-host Mika Brzezinski and correspondent Jacob Soboroff reported that an NBC News/WSJ/Marist poll found 30 percent of Latinos supported Trump. Soboroff, after referring to the results as “surprising” and “frankly puzzling,” went to see if “Latinos for Trump” were “a real thing” by interviewing callers on Jesus Marquez’s radio show on the Las Vegas station La Voz de Nevada.
Marquez is one of the remaining members of Trump’s National Hispanic Advisory Council -- several of them quit, calling the group a “scam” and denouncing Trump’s August 31 anti-immigrant speech as “horrible,” “dishonest,” and “tone-deaf.” Marquez often makes media appearances as a Trump surrogate, so callers to his pro-Trump radio show aren’t likely to be the most representative sample of Latino voters in Nevada.
The problem with MSNBC’s reporting was explained by Futuro Media Group’s Julio Ricardo Varela shortly after the report aired. In an article on NPR’s Latino USA, Varela explained that the poll MSNBC was citing did not contain a large enough sample of Latinos to be representative. Varela dug into the poll’s methodology to explain that the poll surveyed 1,090 adults, only 627 of whom were likely voters, and only 17 percent, or 107, were Latino. Varela laid out the significance of MSNBC’s botched reporting (which also aired on the September 28 edition of MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, according to Nexis):
This would mean that Morning Joe did not accurately represent the poll’s data and methodology, and no one at the table challenged the data. It also raises questions about whether a sample of 107 likely Latino voters in Nevada is even large enough to make a confident conclusion that Trump has 30% of the Latino vote in Nevada, especially when a national NBC News/Telemundo/WSJ poll has Trump’s Latino support in the high teens.
One particularly misleading graphic, titled “Among Nevada Latino Likely Voters,” showed the breakdown of the 107 people the poll surveyed who fit that description, but at the bottom noted the total number of people polled, 1,090. The graphic could have left viewers with the impression that 1,090 Latino likely voters were surveyed, instead of 107:
Later in the day, Soboroff acknowledged he was receiving “blowback” for his reporting, but instead of addressing the criticism, he doubled down. Soboroff said, “I actually got a lot of feedback, a lot of blowback online from folks saying that that 30 number percent looked high. That’s the number that we got in our NBC News poll here.”
MSNBC is not the first network to fumble reports about the Latino vote: Earlier this year, Telemundo also based a report that Latinos could be warming to Trump on flawed polling. Given the lousy attempts that Trump has made at Latino outreach, his anti-immigrant rhetoric, and the fact that even his Latino supporters have admitted his Latino outreach is doomed -- as well as the media’s penchant for misrepresenting Latino voters-- a poll that shows a large number of Latinos supporting Trump should be met with skepticism.
According to Stephen A. Nuño, an associate professor at Northern Arizona University, media reporting on the Latino vote can “often be contradictory, confusing, and outright nonsensical” because sloppy methodology is often used when polling Latinos. Nuño explained that sample sizes are often too small to be representative, polls are frequently not conducted bilingually, and polls are not representative of age, country of origin, and gender.
In a June 10 guest appearance on NPR’s Latino USA, Nuño talked about the number of things that can go wrong when polling Latinos and interpreting the numbers: