A large number of non-citizen Hispanics, as many as 2 million, were illegally registered to vote in the U.S., according to a nationwide poll.

The National Hispanic Survey provides additional evidence for use by anti-voter fraud conservatives and bolsters an analysis by professors at Old Dominion University who say non-citizens registered and voted in potentially large numbers.

- The Washington Times

Is there evidence that "as many as 2 million non-citizen Hispanics" are registered to vote? Is this polling data reliable, statistically significant, and peer reviewed?

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    Can't speak to the claim in general, but as to the "National Hispanic Survey" supposedly supporting the claim: extrapolating from 58 individuals to millions is not encouraging. Also see this answer on response error and the dangers of extrapolation.
    – ff524
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 7:58
  • 5
    The question is focuses on only one aspect, "have there been illegal votes, and how many". Any complete discussion of the subject should also ask, "have legal votes been suppressed, and how many".
    – DevSolar
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 9:20
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    @ff524 xkcd.com/605
    – Kruga
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 9:35
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    @DevSolar: Giving a complete discussion of the subject is not our goal.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 13:12
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    @ff524 You're mixing up registering to vote with actually voting. Here is an official statement from Michigan: "Michigan Department of State staff verified that almost 1,000 people who are noncitizens are registered to vote, despite only having access to about 19 percent of complete citizenship data" michigan.gov/sos/0,4670,7-127--286465--,00.html
    – DavePhD
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 13:43

2 Answers 2


The Poll

The poll doesn't try to make any claim about illegal votes or illegal registration. The voter profile does contain a page which says that 13% of registered voters in the poll were non-citizens (p68).

It does not state the status of these non-citizens, and it does not say where they were registered, or if they actually voted.

As the Washington Times notes, it may be assumed that these are visa holders, permanent residents, or possibly undocumented immigrants.

Permanent residents are allowed to vote in local and some state elections, so it makes sense for them to be registered.

The Washington Times Article

As noted, the poll makes no claim about illegal voter registration, and it is very well possible if not likely that all of those registered are registered legally.

According to the Washington Times, the 2 million claim comes from James Agresti who is the president of a right-wing think tank:

James Agresti, who directs the research nonprofit “Just Facts,” applied the 13 percent figure to 2013 U.S. Census numbers for non-citizen Hispanic adults. In 2013, the Census reported that 11.8 million non-citizen Hispanic adults lived here, which would amount to 1.5 million illegally registered Latinos.
Accounting for the margin of error based on the sample size of non-citizens, Mr. Agresti calculated that the number of illegally registered Hispanics could range from 1.0 million to 2.1 million.

As noted in this related question, extrapolating from such a small sample to such a large sample is error-prone and not generally done (even when starting with a correct small sample, which doesn't seem to be the case here). According to the calculations by Agresti, he extrapolates from 58 people who Agresti thinks are illegally registered (the actual amount of people who are non-citizens and registered to vote - maybe legally, maybe illegally, the poll doesn't say this - is 61).

Note also that even then, you only arrive at 2 million if you take the upper bound of the margin of error that Agresti assumes. It also seems that Agresti may have misread the poll or miscalculated. "13% of registered voters are non-citizen" (from the poll) does not mean that "13% of non-citizens are registered voters". (which seems to be what Agrestis calculations are based on)

  • 3
    For people following along at home: Page 68 of the presentation, on the right hand side, has the figure 13% of the people answering "Yes" to registered to vote, answering "No" to whether they are citizens.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 13:18
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    @GoldBishop illegal vs undocumented is indeed semantics, but I would say that the statistics are very much in question. The original poll makes no attempt to look into illegal voting (registration), and the calculations made by Agresti are misleading at best, but probably just wrong.
    – tim
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 15:07
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    Per the WT article (I haven't looked at the original poll): "448, said they were non-citizens, and of those, 13 percent said they were registered to vote." That's 58 respondents. Is that right? They extrapolate out to millions, from 58 individual responses?
    – ff524
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 15:10
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    @ff524 actually, no. See my comment above, the Times misread the poll. It's actually 61 respondents.
    – tim
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 15:15
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    For extrapolating out to millions, 61 is still tiny! Especially in a population that is likely to have a high rate of response error. Might want to mention that number in the answer!.
    – ff524
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 15:17

No, the analysis that lead to this figure was in error.

Albert Cairo has written a detailed debunking of the analysis that lead to the claim.

One of the most important errors was that

they didn't ask all the 800 [respondents] about their citizenship. They only asked those people who said that they were born outside of the United States.

Cairo wrote to the original claimant, James D. Agresti, about this error, and Agresti agreed it was an error.

He replied very graciously, acknowledged the mistake, and proposed this correction with a larger margin of error:

For 2013, the year of the survey, the Census Bureau reports that 11,779,000 Hispanic non-citizens aged 18 and older resided in the United States. At a 13% registration rate, this is 1,531,270 Hispanic non-citizens registered to vote. Accounting for the sampling margin of error, there were about 264 non-citizens in this survey. In a population of 11.8 million, the margin of error for a sample of 264 is 6.0% with 95% confidence. Applied to the results of the survey, this is 824,530 to 2,238,010 Hispanic non-citizens registered to vote (with 95% confidence).

Cairo continued, arguing that even this correction was in error, mathematically, and more importantly that the survey data was being misused to extrapolate this figure.

I think that all these figures and computations are way too uncertain to say anything that isn't absurd. Based solely on the survey data, we cannot suggest that we have an illegal voter problem in the U.S. —or that we don't. The data from the survey is useless for this purpose, and it certainly doesn't support a headline saying that 2 million people are illegally registered to vote. Besides the problems with casually extrapolating from a sample, the survey wasn't designed to analyze voter fraud anyway.

  • @phoog: Ah, I see what you mean. Corrected. Thanks.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 18:07
  • I would have thought that in any survey, there will be some number of mistakes being made. No matter how unlikely an answer is to be correct statistically, some people will pick it.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 21:30
  • @gnasher729: Indeed. Cairo explains that if you want to answer this question, you need to design a survey (both questions and sampling) carefully to avoid (or detect) these types of sources of error. He argued that using survey data designed for a different purpose is inappropriate.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 4:27

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