Gauging Hispanic Voting Strength

Paradoxes and Pitfalls

Published in: Population Research and Policy Review, v. 11, no. 2, 1992, p. 145-156

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 1992

by William A. Clark, Peter A. Morrison

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How a minority group's demographic presence in a district translates into a presence among the voters in that district is a matter of growing importance to political scientists and courts. This paper examines technical problems in measuring the concentration of Hispanic voting strength among the eligible voters in an election district. The authors document and analyze several limitations with existing demographic data in localities where a minority has a distinctive citizenship, ethnic, and age makeup. Their findings show how different measurement techniques may distort or clarify one's view of local Hispanic voting strength. County-wide measures of age and citizenship have a generic limitation: using such measures to infer the character of particular county sub-areas may falsely inflate the apparent voting strength of Hispanics. Other specific limitations relate to (1) the use of voting-age population (or self-reported voting-age citizens) in gauging the actual concentration of Hispanic registrants in an area and (2) the definition of Hispanic itself.

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