Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush works the crowd at a campaign rally in Maitland on July 27, 2015. (AP photo) Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush works the crowd at a campaign rally in Maitland on July 27, 2015. (AP photo)

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush works the crowd at a campaign rally in Maitland on July 27, 2015. (AP photo)

Joshua Gillin
By Joshua Gillin July 31, 2015

Jeb Bush says he won 60% of the Hispanic vote in 2002 election

Former Gov. Jeb Bush is courting Hispanic voters to build momentum for his presidential run, pointing out that he relied upon the demographic during his gubernatorial campaign.

"In my re-election in 2002, I won the majority," he told Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart in Spanish during a July 27, 2015 interview. "I won more Hispanic votes than Anglo votes, 60 percent in the state. It can be done."

Bush has some advantages over most of his GOP rivals when it comes to Hispanic voters: He speaks Spanish fluently and his wife, Columba, is a native of Mexico. But did he really win re-election as governor with 60 percent of the Hispanic vote, higher than his percentage with white voters? We decided to revisit the polls and find out.

Demographic shift

The percentage of the vote is important, because the majority of registered voters in Florida are white. In 2002 there were 7 million white voters, with other ethnicities totaling 2.3 million.

The Florida Department of State told PolitiFact Florida that it’s tough to say exactly how many Hispanic voters were registered in 2002, because Division of Elections record-keeping has since changed. Registrations then were recorded as either "white," "black," "other" or "unknown/not given."

In 2013, the percentage of the electorate that is Hispanic was between 14 and 18 percent, a number that has probably grown since 2002.

Bush cruised to re-election that year, winning 56 percent of the vote over Democrat Bill McBride.

His campaign focused on Hispanic voters, with Bush giving interviews in Spanish and running Spanish-language campaign ads. Afterward, analysts and media coverage credited Bush with taking anywhere from 57 to 65 percent of the Hispanic vote.

That would usually be an oddity for a non-Hispanic, Republican candidate, but not necessarily Bush. In 1998 he garnered 61 percent of Hispanic voters against Buddy McKay, versus 60 percent of white voters.

But breaking down 2002’s numbers isn’t as clear cut as it would be for other years.  Voter News Service, a joint poll by ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN and the Associated Press, stopped providing numbers on Election Night 2002 after it decided its computer analysis was flawed and couldn’t give reliable results.  

That meant a dearth of data for national and state races, and no exit polls that dissected the race, gender or economic status of Florida’s voters. That left independent analyses to pick up the slack. But most of those generally accepted Bush had won the Hispanic vote handily.

Fernand Amandi, managing partner of Miami-based polling firm Bendixen & Amandi, said a combination of low turnout and a strong, older Cuban electorate gave the Republican an advantage. Some estimates said 80 percent of Cuban voters rallied around Bush.

"The 2002 exit poll was flawed and not kept for reference, but targeted precinct analysis suggests he did clear the 60 percent threshold," Amandi said. "Without the benefit of a definitive exit poll, I would speculate he did as well or better against Bill McBride."

One widely cited study from the Center for Immigration Studies pegged Bush’s support among Hispanics at 57 percent in 2002.

University of Texas government professor Daron Shaw provided data from a Fox News poll for that analysis. Shaw also thought the Cuban population favored Bush, a factor that's especially in play in Florida.

"I do recall the number and wasn’t particularly surprised," he said. "The Cuban population in Florida makes it a unique Hispanic cross-section, one that is much more friendly to Republicans than the national cross section."

Our ruling

Bush said in 2002, he "won more Hispanic votes than Anglo votes, 60 percent in the state."

While Bush historically had enjoyed a strong Hispanic voter base, we found there actually aren’t the usual exit poll results from his 2002 re-election to support this conclusion.

However, most media analyses from the election do suggest Bush carried about 60 percent of the Hispanic vote, as he did in 1998. Experts we consulted said that was most likely the case.

The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information. We rate it Mostly True.

Our Sources

NBC Universal, "Transcript: Jeb Bush interviewed by Telemundo News," July 27, 2015

Associated Press, "Jeb Bush Makes History In Florida," Nov. 4, 2002

Associated Press, "Voter News Service Abandons National Exit Poll Operation," Nov. 6, 2002

New York Times, "Bush Wins 2nd Term With Surge," Nov. 6, 2002

New York Times, "Election Ritual Makes Return: Awaiting Votes," Nov. 6, 2002  

Washington Post, "Exit poll meltdown flusters TV networks," Nov. 6, 2002

Tampa Bay Times, "Bush, McBride didn't draw black voters," Nov. 8, 2002

Center for Immigration Studies, "Latinos and the 2002 Election: Republicans Do Well When Latinos Stay Home," January 2003

Tampa Bay Times, "Parties court the ultimate swing vote: Florida's Hispanics," May 3, 2004

New York Times, "Hispanic Vote in Florida: Neither a Bloc Nor a Lock," Oct. 17, 2004

PolitiFact Florida, "As Rick Scott and Charlie Crist battle for Hispanic vote, a Miami-Dade Democratic leader overstates the share of the Hispanic vote," April 28, 2014

Pew Research Center, "After decades of GOP support, Cubans shifting toward the Democratic Party," June 24, 2014

Washington Post, "Jeb Bush did really well with Latinos in Florida. It probably doesn’t mean much for 2016.," Dec. 15, 2014

CNN, "Can Rubio, Bush both compete for Latino vote?," April 13, 2015

Politico, "Jeb Bush: ‘I was hurt’ by Donald Trump’s attacks on Mexicans," July 28, 2015

The Nation, "How the 2000 Election in Florida Led to a New Wave of Voter Disenfranchisement," July 28, 2015

Orlando Sentinel, "Bush wins Hispanic support; MCBride fails to woo black voters," Nov. 7, 2002, accessed via Nexis

Orlando Sentinel, "Hispanics get involved on election day," Nov. 13, 2002, accessed via Nexis

Associated Press, "GOP: Bush received strong Hispanic support during election," Nov. 20, 2002, accessed via Nexis

Florida Today, "GOP claims Hispanic-voter gains," Nov. 21, 2002, accessed via Nexis

Washington Times, "Parties wooed Hispanics with record ad spending; GOP claims solid gains from language strategy," Nov. 22, 2002, accessed via Nexis

Florida Today, "Hispanic voters end their silence," Jan. 5, 2007

Interview with Allie Brandenburger, Bush spokeswoman, July 29-30, 2015

Interview with Meredith Beatrice, Florida Department of State spokeswoman, July 29-30, 2015

Interview with Aubrey Jewett, University of Central Florida political science professor, July 29, 2015

Interview with Fernand Amandi, Bendixen & Amandi managing partner, July 30, 2015

Interview with Daron Shaw, University of Texas government professor, July 30, 2015

Interview with Kathleen Weldon, research manager at the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, July 30, 2015

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