- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 21, 2004

President Bush’s jump in support from Hispanic voters this election from 2000 was almost entirely among Hispanic men, nearly half of whom voted for him this year, according to a study released yesterday.

The new numbers from the National Annenberg Election Survey also continue to fuel the debate over exactly how much of the Hispanic vote Mr. Bush did win last month.

A series of exit polls have shown that support ranging anywhere from 34 percent to 44 percent. But the Annenberg poll, taken in the eight weeks before the election and the two weeks afterward, found Mr. Bush garnering 41 percent support, including 46 percent support among Hispanic men and 36 percent support among Hispanic women.

In 2000, the same poll found about 35 percent support for Mr. Bush among both Hispanic men and Hispanic women.

Adam J. Segal, director of the Hispanic Voter Project at Johns Hopkins University, said Mr. Bush’s campaign message to Hispanic voters on moral values and security seemed intuitively designed to garner male votes, and that seems to have paid off.

Politicians and others have been debating exactly how much of the Hispanic vote Mr. Bush and Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry won. The Annenberg study authors say they cannot resolve that dispute, but they say whatever the exact number, “Bush made significant gains.”

Mr. Segal said the debate matters because both political parties are trying to assess whether the record amount of money each spent on outreach was worth it.

“A lot of it on face value comes down to money — should more money or less money be appropriated to Hispanic outreach in the future,” he said.

But he agreed with the report’s authors that, whatever the exact number, “the story can still be written that Bush did much better among Hispanic voters than in 2000, and it was a tremendous gain for Republicans.”

He said Republicans are now taking the public polling and their own private polling to see what worked and what didn’t.

Michael McKenna, a Republican pollster, said political professionals are arguing over the breakdown of Hispanic support because these voters are still not as well understood as other voting blocs.

“They are the largest population segment that is moving between the parties,” he said. “People who do opinion research have a really good understanding of the rest of the segments. This is a segment we’re all still learning about.”

He said pollsters don’t even agree on how to define Hispanic voters for their sample. Annenberg combined those who identified themselves as Latino or Hispanic with those who requested the interview take place in Spanish.

Mr. McKenna, whose pre-election poll for the Republican-leaning Hispanic Alliance for Progress showed Mr. Bush with 42 percent support, identified Hispanics by looking at those with Hispanic surnames, then eliminated those who gave their origin as non-Hispanic.

Democrats are pondering how they lost ground. In a letter to Democratic Party officials this month, leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said Republicans “are clearly winning the battle for the Hispanic voters.”

In addition to a gap between the sexes, the Annenberg poll found a 16 percentage-point gap between married and single Hispanics, with 47 percent of those “married or living as married” supporting Mr. Bush.

The Annenberg survey polled 906 Hispanics and has a three percentage point margin of error. It was part of a broader 13-month survey including more than 80,000 interviews.

Mr. McKenna said the marriage and sex differences among Hispanics show Hispanics follow the same voting patterns as the general population.

“By the time they get to vote, Hispanics, however we define them, look a lot more like your average American voter than most of us believe,” he said.

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