Getting Out the White Vote
Peter Kirsanow has an interesting analysis of the racial breakdown of the vote this season:
Kerry’s late-summer poll numbers among blacks hovered around 84 percent. By early October, that percentage had fallen to 74 percent. In the last several days, the percentages have slipped further. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies poll puts Kerry’s black support at 69 percent. A Pew Research poll gives Kerry 70 percent of the black vote. Kerry’s black poll numbers are ominously lower than those for Al Gore whose share of the black vote in 2000 is estimated to have been 92 percent. The good news for Senator Kerry is that in mid-October 2000, Gore’s black poll numbers were around 75 percent Ã¢€” 17 points lower than his ultimate share. If Kerry can add another 17 points as Gore did, he will still garner a healthy 86-87 percent of the black vote.
That Bush is making some inroads–even if just barely–into the black vote is obviously a good thing. Even if one doesn’t support Bush, having the second largest racial group voting as a monolith is simply bad for the country. What’s really amazing, though, is the flip side of the statistic, upon which almost no one remarks:
The bad news for Kerry is that even 86-87 percent of the black vote won’t be enough to win on November 2. Since 1968, the Democrat presidential candidate’s share of the non-black vote has typically crested at no higher than 39 percent.
That the dominant racial group–which is by no means cohesive or even one that thinks of itself as existing–has not voted less than 61 percent Republican in the last nine elections–going on ten–is just astounding. We have, after all, elected a Democrat in three of those (Carter in 1976 and Clinton in 1992 and 1996) and a Democrat got the majority of the popular vote in a fifth (Gore in 2000).
There’s nothing in current polling data that suggests Kerry will do any better. That leaves Kerry with little margin for error when it comes to the black vote. It’s estimated that more than eleven million blacks voted in 2000. Al Gore received approximately ten million black votes. A six-point decrease from that total, even without a corresponding shift to George W. Bush, means about 600,000 fewer votes for John Kerry nationwide. In states with large black populations like the swing states of Ohio and Florida, that would mean a drop of about 25,000 and 50,000 votes, respectively.
More than enough to swing the election–conceivably by a factor of ten.