What Other Academics Think Of The Questionable Study On Non-Citizen Voters Hyped By Conservative Media

Academics and experts are casting doubt on the merits of a new study, promoted by right-wing media, which estimates that a small percentage of non-citizens vote and might sway the outcome of elections.

Study Examines Possible Voting By Non-Citizens In U.S.

Study In Electoral Studies Journal: "Could Control Of The Senate In 2014 Be Decided By Illegal Votes Cast By Non-Citizens?" A recent study by political scientists at Old Dominion University used the 2008 and 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) to examine whether “non-citizens vote in U.S. elections.” The authors reported: “About one percent of the respondents in each survey identified themselves as non-citizen immigrants (339 in 2008, 489 in 2010),” estimating that 21 of these self-identified non-citizens voted in 2008 and 8 of self-identified non-citizens voted in 2010. They used this to project national voting rates of the U.S. non-citizen population:

The “adjusted estimate” represents our best guess at the portion of non-citizens who voted. As with voter registration, we extrapolate from the behavior of validated voters in 2008 to estimate the portion of non-citizens who said they voted but didn't, and the portion who said they didn't vote but did.


The adjusted estimate of 6.4 percent for 2008 is quite substantial, and would be associated with 1.2 million non-citizen votes cast in 2008 if the weighted CCES sample is fully representative of the non-citizen population. To produce an adjusted figure for 2010 we cut by three quarters the estimated number of non-citizens who voted but claimed they did not (somewhat larger than the drop in the number who self-reported voting). This produces an overall estimate that 2.2 percent voted in 2010. [Electoral Studies9/21/14]

The Study's Authors Outlined The Limitations Of Their Findings. In a October 24 blog in The Washington Post, Jessie Richman and David Earnest, two authors of the study, admitted that their “extrapolation to specific state-level or district-level election outcomes is fraught with substantial uncertainty.” The authors noted that the non-citizen sample they examined was “modest” and relied on self-reporting, which can create errors, and attempts to verify the accuracy of the self-reporting was imperfect and supplemented by estimates. [The Washington Post10/27/14]

Experts Have Raised Questions About The Study's Methodology And Conclusion

Political Scientist Michael Tesler: Study's Reliance On “Non-Citizens” Who Previously Reported That They Were Citizens “Raises Important Doubts About [The] Conclusions.” Brown University political scientist Michael Tesler questioned the study's “methodological challenges” in a blog in The Washington Post, such as the possibility that non-citizens may have misreported their citizenship status. Tesler noted that many self-reported non-citizens in 2012 reported being citizens in 2010, indicating a high rate of response error “which raises important doubts about their conclusions”:

[Forty-one] percent of self-reported non-citizen voters in the 2012 CCES reported being citizens back in 2010. The table goes on to show that 71 percent of respondents, who said that they were both 2012 non-citizens and 2010 voters, had previously reported being citizens of the United States in the 2010 CCES. With the authors' extrapolations of the non-citizen voting population based on a small number of validated votes from self-reported non-citizens (N = 5), this high frequency of response error in non-citizenship status raises important doubts about their conclusions. [The Washington Post, Monkey Cage blog, 10/27/14]

Other Academics And Commentators Questioned Study's Assumptions And Sample Size. Tesler also wrote that “a number of academics and commentators have already expressed skepticism about the paper's assumptions and conclusions” which seem to be “tenuous at best”:

A number of academics and commentators have already expressed skepticism about the paper's assumptions and conclusions, though. In a series of tweets, New York Times columnist Nate Cohn  focused his criticism on Richman et al's use of Cooperative Congressional Election Study data to make inferences about the non-citizen voting population. That critique has some merit, too. The 2008 and 2010 CCES surveyed large opt-in Internet samples constructed by the polling firm YouGov to be nationally representative of the adult citizen population. Consequently, the assumption that non-citizens, who volunteered to take online surveys administered in English about American politics, would somehow be representative of the entire non-citizen population seems tenuous at best. [The Washington Post, Monkey Cage blog, 10/27/14]

Right-Wing Media Hype Questionable Study To Claim Huge Percentages Of “Illegals” Voted

Fox Host: New Study Found That “Illegals Voted Between Two And Six Percent The Last Two Elections.” On the October 27 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade hyped an “eye-opening new study” that “reveals a significant number of noncitizens casting votes alongside real citizens right here in the United States.” Fox guest Rachel Campos-Duffy of the Libre Initiative, a Koch-funded non-profit that targets Latino voters, speculated about the effects such illegal voting might have:

KILMEADE: An eye-opening new study I want to share with you. It reveals a significant number of noncitizens casting votes alongside real citizens right here in the United States come election day. Could those votes help decide control of the Senate?


When you see how close these states are, one and two percent, and you see the fact that illegals voted between two and six percent over the last two elections, what's your greatest concern there?

CAMPOS-DUFFY: It's not just the individual states that these decisions are going to make a difference in. You know, Colorado is tight. New Hampshire is tight. North Carolina is tight. But sometimes these decisions have a national impact. We saw that in 2008 in the Minnesota race with Al Franken and Norm Coleman. That ended up being the 60th vote that brought us Obamacare. So, it has national implications. It's very important. [Fox News, Fox & Friends10/27/14]

Breitbart.com: “Voting by Non-Citizens Tips Balance for Democrats.” An October 26 Breitbart.com headline claimed, “Study: Voting by Non-Citizens Tips Balance for Democrats.” The article hyped the question of whether control of the Senate in 2014 could “be decided by illegal votes cast by non-citizens.”  [Breitbart.com, 10/26/14]

Heritage Foundation's Hans Von Spakovsky: Non-Citizens Voting “Problem Is Real.”  In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal warning that “voter fraud will occur” in the 2014 elections, Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky cited the study as evidence that voting by non-citizens “could swing” close races because “the problem is real.”  [The Wall Street Journal10/27/14]

NRO: “Jaw-Dropping Study” On Non-Citizens Voting In U.S. National Review Online described the study as “eye-opening” and “jaw-dropping,” speculating that undocumented immigrants are using fake IDs to vote. [National Review Online, 10/24/14]