The Candidate of NYC Latinos and its New Majority?
The NiLP Network on Latino Issues (July 16, 2013)
While there is much discussion about the role of the Latino vote nationally, locally, during the New York City Mayoral election, this has not been much the case. Tthere are two Latinos, both Puerto Rican, running for Mayor: Erick Salgado in the Democratic Primary and Adolfo Carrion as an independent candidate with the Independent Party. But neither has until now played much of a a galvanizing role in terms of the Latino electorate. In addition, Latino political leaders have been all over the map in their endorsements of Mayoral candidates. Within this context, it is not entirely clear what role the Latino vote will be playing.
However, an unexpected recent development has pointed to the potentially critical role of Latino and Black voters --- the Democratic Party candidacy of Elliot Spitzer for Comptroller. With the close to two-thirds of Democratic Party voters being people of color (see Table 1 below), the results of the July 11th NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll on the Comptroller's race raise interesting questions about the racial differences among the city electorate.
Local political polling of Latinos, Blacks and Asians has been widely viewed as unreliable, based on very small sample sizes with large margins of error. There seems to be a consensus by journalists who cover local politics that the results of these polls in terms of Latinos, Blacks and Asians voters are so unreliable that they do not report on them and prefer to just use total results.
The recent NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll, as an example of this concern, did not bother to report on their Black and Latino results in the narrative accompanying their poll. One interpretation is that since the only reliable sample of these local polls are those of white voters, the total results that do make it into the news are probably more reflective of white political preferences rather than those of voters of color. In other words, these polls consistently do a poor job of measuring the opinions of the majority of the city's population.
With this caveat in mind, when we look at the results of the recent NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll, a consistent pattern of differences in preferences along racial lines emerges nonetheless. Although the Black and Latino numbers presented below may not be as accurate as they should be, they do point to broad patterns that raise important questions about the nature of the city's electorate and the accuracy of local polling.
Spitzer versus Stringer
When Democratic voters were asked who they would support for Comptroller, while a plurality of whites supported Scott Stringer (46 percent), large pluralities of Latinos (46 percent) and Blacks (50 percent) indicated support for Eliot Spitzer (see Table 2).
In terms of favorability ratings, the majority Latinos and Blacks felt more favorably towards Spitzer (50 percent and 53 percent, respectively) compared to less than half of whites (41 percent). On the other hand, Stringer had the highest favorability ratings from whites (48 percent). In addition, much larger percentages of all three groups indicated they were unsure or never heard of Stringer (38-45 percent) than Spitzer (16-21 percent) (see Tables 3 and 4).
Asked if despite his scandal involving prostitution and his resignation as Governor, Spitzer deserved a second chance, Blacks and Latinos overwhelming agreed that he did (75 and 73 percent, respectively), while the majority of whites did as well but in a significantly lower percentage (55 percent) (see Table 5).
The same was the case when asked if they felt that Spitzer had changed as a person since the scandal. Larger percentages of Latinos and Blacks agreed (61 and 46 percent, respectively) than of whites (31 percent). On this question, Latinos were the most forgiving of Spitzer (see Table 6).
As another indicator of racial differences in public opinion, when asked how they would rate the job Michael Bloomberg was doing as Mayor, while a slim majority of whites rated his performance as "excellent" and "good" (53 percent), large majorities of Blacks and Latinos rated it as only "fair" and "poor" (59 and 57 percent) (see Table 7).
Based on these poll results, it would appear that Spitzer has emerged as the most clearcut candidate of the city's new majority of Black and Latino votes. A number of factors could account for this. There is his record as Governor, in which he championed, for example, the highly controversial proposal to allow noncitizens to get drivers' licenses, as well as his reputation as the "Sheriff of Wall Street" when he served as Attotney General. There is also the general disillusionment and skepticism, at least in the Latino community, with the Democratic Party locally that make Spitzer, as the outsider reform candidate, more attractive than Stringer as the Democratic Party establishment's candidate. The open opposition to a Spitzer candidacy by the Democratic Party establishment may be one of the main things that ironically make him more popular with Latinos and Blacks, many of which who feel marginalized by the party.
In terms of the Democratic campaign, will Spitzer be capitalizing on this initial support he appears to have in Latino and Black communities? For Stringer it appears that he has the double challenge of reversing this lack of support among voters of color as well as overcoming his low profile, especially outside of Manhattan.
As the campaign unfolds, we will see if these factors continue to have the influence they currently seem to have. This will require more discussion and greater attention by the media covering this election on Latino, Black and Asian political preferences than has been the case up to now.
The NiLP Network on Latino Issues is an online information service provided by the National Institute for Latino Policy, a non-partisan policy center. For further information on NiLP, visit our website at www.latinopolicy.org.