Wall Street Journal opinion writer Peggy Noonan needs to get out more. In her latest column, entitled "America Is So In Play," she ruminates on the appeal of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden: Those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas should be prosecuted Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Hackers are making big money MORE's 2016 candidacy. "Something is going on, some tectonic plates are moving in interesting ways," she writes. She suggests that the media is missing one of the biggest stories hiding in plain view: that Latinos are supporting The Donald's bid for the White House.
Not so fast. Noonan reaches her conclusions based on purely anecdotal experience. She relies on a faulty poll and ignores a wealth of evidence to the contrary. That she would make such incredible assertions bespeaks lazy journalism and a troubling lack of editorial oversight at one of the nation's most powerful newspapers.
The source of Noonan's newfound insight into the minds of Latino voters is her friend, Cesar, who "works the deli counter at my neighborhood grocery store." First of all, are Noonan and Cesar really "friends"? Friends go to the movies and parties and socialize together; somehow it seems a stretch to imagine the former speechwriter for President Reagan and Cesar chilling at a late night showing of "Straight Outta Compton."
Regardless, Cesar tells Noonan that Latinos love Trump because he heard them calling into a local Spanish-language radio station in support of the billionaire. According to Noonan, Cesar also says that "Immigrants don't like illegal immigration, and they're with Mr. Trump on anchor babies." Noonan affirms this idea by noting that "wherever I've been this summer, I keep meeting immigrants who are or who have grown more conservative."
Assuming that Cesar told Noonan the truth about what he heard on a local station, one Spanish-language call-in show does not reflect the thinking of all U.S. Latinos. Consider that the demographics of New York City's Latino population are significantly different from national Latino demographics. The top two Latino groups in New York City are Dominicans and Puerto Ricans. Because Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and have no immigration issues, it is possible that a majority of callers to a Manhattan radio station voiced support for Trump. But nationally, according to the Pew Center, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans account for roughly two-thirds of the U.S. Latino population — and national polls show that Latinos really dislike Trump. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 75 percent of Latinos had a negative view of the current GOP front-runner.
Apparently, Noonan missed that poll because she was too busy talking with her new amigo Cesar. However, personal observations are no substitute for data — even in an op-ed.
Noonan cites one poll to shore up her thesis that Latinos love Trump. After mentioning a Gallup poll that shows high disapproval ratings for Trump among Latinos, she counters with a Nevada poll showing Trump with 31 percent support from that state's Hispanics. Yet the reliability of this poll has been called into question. FiveThirtyEight blog gives that pollster a "C" rating, and it was only a survey of Nevada's Latino Republicans, not all Latinos. This particular polling company historically surveys landlines only, whereas nearly half of Latinos live in cellphone-only households.
The larger issue here is that Noonan seems comfortable making pronouncements on the Hispanic vote based on the secondhand report of a "friend" whom she pays to make her sandwiches. This is at best patronizing and at worst arrogant. With the increasingly sophisticated and detailed data on Latinos voters now available, it is inexcusable for Noonan to present her limited interaction with Latinos as illustrative of the sentiments of 54 million people. Why is the Journal allowing her to weigh in on matters where she has such little credibility or knowledge?
Then again, this is a columnist who predicted a 2012 win for then-Republican nominee Mitt Romney based on the number of yard signs she saw, and who once wrote a whole column about how she spoke to a Mexican lady while on her way to Bloomingdale's.
Still, Noonan’s column is not completely hopeless. "Cesar ... sees me, I sense," she writes, "as a very nice establishment person who needs to get with the new reality."
On this point, we can all probably agree: Cesar is right.
Reyes is an attorney and columnist in New York City. He is also an NBCNews.com contributor.