Methodology: Counting Hispanic Surnames

Sep 24, 2012
Originally published on January 7, 2013 1:42 pm

So you may be wondering how we reached the conclusion that just 2 percent of the elected officials in the Northwest are Hispanic. Here's how we did it.

First, we collected the names of every elected state official ... every county commissioner, city councilor, mayor and school board member. We added in members of Congress for good measure. We came up with 8, 244 names.

Then we cross-checked that spreadsheet against a separate list of 13,000 Hispanic surnames. The U.S. Department of Justice compiled the list for use in Voting Rights cases. So, what we really counted was not necessarily people but last names.

Paul Apostolidis is a political science professor at Whitman College in Walla Walla. He says numerous studies have shown this method of counting Hispanic surnames is right 95 percent of the time.

"So, it's not a perfect tool. I don't think a perfect tool would exist. But 95 percent accurate is pretty darn good when you're trying to establish tendencies on an aggregate population level."

On the Web:

Map: Northwest Latino Elected Official Database by State

Map: Northwest Latino Elected Official Database By County

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network