Partisanship and Race

Here is another column (American Anger: It’s Not the Economy. It’s the Other Party) in the long list of trying to figure out what is going on in American politics these days.  The thesis is that the problem is partisan sorting and that that sorting strongly correlates to view on race:

The increasing alignment between party and racial attitudes goes back to the early 1990s. The Pew Values Survey asks people whether they agree that “we should make every effort to improve the position of minorities, even if it means giving them preferential treatment.”

Over time, Americans’ party identification has become more closely aligned with answers to this question and others like it. Pew reports that, “since 1987, the gap on this question between the two parties has doubled — from 18 points to 40 points.” Democrats are now much more supportive (52 percent) of efforts to improve racial equality than they were a few decades ago, while the views of Republicans have been largely unchanged (12 percent agree).

While I think we are a ways from a coherent explanation for the current state of our politics, the evidence does seem to frequently circle back to race (and, certainly, the support for, and rhetoric of, Donald Trump adds evidence to that notion).

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Quick Takes, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Mr. Prosser says:

    Of course race is a major part of the divide. Right wing tribalism demands members adhere to the belief that “they” are changing the country, destroying the fabric of the community. Party loyalty is pretty ephemeral with the out group, they really don’t trust anyone and when they are let down again they will look for something else and someone else.

  2. How do political independents and the politically alienated fit into this thesis?

  3. While the original column is good, the OTB version seems to weirdly mischaracterize it. The Pew study underlining the article show growing partisan divides on a large number of issues, regardless of whether they are not racial or not in nature. It seems odd to pick out that one data point and compact this all to a racial issue when the full data set show it to be a far broader phenomenon.

  4. Also, the example question (“We should make every effort to improve the position of minorities, even if it means giving them preferential treatment”) kind of demonstrates the problem with a lot of public opinion polling these days. The polltaker believes two things are related (e.g. “vaccines cause autism”) and assumes everyone else also actually shares this belief and merely disagree on the cost/benefit analysis. So instead of probing the belief (e.g. “do you think vaccines cause autism?”), they phrase the question as a conjunctive statement (e.g. “are you in favor of mandatory vaccination even if it greatly increases the occurrence of autism”) that becomes impossible to meaningfully answer if you don’t already share the polltaker’s worldview.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    I don’t recall when I first saw the statement that race has always been the key issue in US politics. However long ago it was, I haven’t seen much since to disprove the proposition.

  6. Kylopod says:

    @gVOR08: Race might well be the reason why the US never developed a national health care system. Most accounts of Truman’s proposal for health-care reform emphasize the role of the medical lobby in killing it, but less often is it noted that the Dixiecrats opposed it, fearing that it would lead to integrated hospitals. (Talk about one-track minded.) If the Dixiecrats had supported it just like they’d supported Social Security (itself originally crafted to exclude blacks as much as possible), Truman would very likely have passed it.

  7. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Kylopod: see also: Social Security and Agricultural Workers

  8. Kari Q says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Maybe. On the other hand, sometimes questions are phrased that way to indicate intensity of opinion.Pew has been asking the same question in the same words for at least 20 years, so they keep the wording to make the comparison clearer. They has also polled on whether people support “affirmative action” programs, without mentioning preferential treatment, so the comparison between the results yields interesting evidence.

  9. Jenos Idanian says:

    Of course it circles back to race. The Democrats have been using bogus charges of racism to shut up their opponents for decades. They just haven’t noticed that it doesn’t work any more, but they still keep trying.

    I saw this wonderful meme the other day; I just wish I could find it again. The caption was something like “Liberals — they can spot 139,875 out of every five racists.”

    Or, perhaps, “in the future, everything will be racist for 15 minutes.”

    I think we’re already there.

  10. Jenos Idanian says:

    Here, let me offer two examples of why so many people are tired of the RAAAAACIST bullshit.

    1) The Gap released an ad campaign that featured a thoroughly diverse group of young girls. In one of the images, a taller white girl was resting her arm on a shorter black girl’s head. The usual suspects all screamed racism, Gapt apologized and pulled the photo.

    Later, a few more facts emerged. First, Gap had released a similar photo last year, but with the races reversed, and no one complained. Second, it turns out that the two girls in the photo — the arm rest and the owner of the resting arm — are sisters.

    2) At a recent political event, two very high-profile politicians engaged in some staged banter that had racial overtones. More specifically, it alluded to a rather negative racial stereotype. And they’re not only not getting huge rounds of condemnation, the whole thing is being studiously ignored by The Usual Suspects who usually are so quick to denounce. Gee, I wonder if it could be because the two politicians are Bill De Blasio and Hillary Clinton?

    Any Republican politician who participated in a skit involving references to “Colored People Time” would be crucified. But since it was those two, they get a pass.

  11. DrDaveT says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Here, let me offer two examples of why so many people are tired of the RAAAAACIST bullshit.

    And yet again, Jenos proves that he thinks one anecdote outweighs any number of boring anonymous facts. Because, like, anecdotes are so much more IMMEDIATE.

    It’s a good thing there are no documented cases of Inquisition torturers who really had hearts of gold and liked to rescue drowning kittens. He’d have to overturn his whole take on Torquemada. Assuming, of course, that he doesn’t already think Torquemada was a misunderstood Compassionate Conservative…

  12. Jenos Idanian says:

    @DrDaveT: Think of it as taking your principles and applying them to real-world conditions. The two incidents I cited happened very closely together in time. What were the distinctions between the two incidents that caused (and justified) all the attention paid to the Gap ad, and why was the Clinton/De Blasio one so studiously ignored?

    Oh, I know the true answer. Clinton and De Blasio are among the favored, so they get a pass. But with the Gap case, there were way, way too many opportunities for virtue signaling and finding excuses to attack those who aren’t among the favored. But I am morbidly curious to hear the rationales used to justify the discrepancy.

    Come on, you don’t want to be exposed seen as a hypocrite, do you? To be seen as putting your partisanship ahead of the principle of condemning racism?

  13. gVOR08 says:

    @Kylopod: Beyond the specific fear of integrated hospitals, there is always the general fear that any benefit to poorer people might dis-proportionally benefit “those people”.

  14. gVOR08 says:

    @DrDaveT: I’d expect Jenos regards Torquemada as a liberal. The usual torture bad*, liberal bad, therefore torture = liberal.

    * Except for Muslims of course.

  15. gVOR08 says:

    Interesting piece by Vavreck. But she doesn’t talk about media. I would see the growth of self consciously conservative media as a major driver of the polarization more than as a symptom. We used to have basically three networks, two weekly news magazines, and a handful of major papers. They expressed some range of opinion, but within a broad consensus.

    Now many of my co-workers spend their lunch listening to Limbaugh or reading American Thinker or Drudge, or worse. (Instead of being like me and reading the eminently reasonable and mainstream OTB.) They’ve built their own world, divorced from reality, much less any shared consensus. I have to add that I honestly don’t think Democrats have moved very far from where they were in the broad national consensus of the 60s.

    I used to regard electing Republican presidents as regrettable, but not a big thing. Since W Bush I very much fear the election of another Republican. And I know the odds are against Dems winning four or five terms in a row.

  16. Jenos Idanian says:

    @gVOR08: I don’t feel particularly inclined to apply contemporary definitions and litmus tests on people who’ve been dead for 500 years, but if you wanna argue about it among yourselves, be my guest.

    Too bad your response to the Clinton/De Blasio racism is also running on CP time…

  17. DrDaveT says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    But I am morbidly curious to hear the rationales used to justify the discrepancy.

    Granting for argument’s sake that the facts are as you state them, what on earth makes you think that I would want to justify the discrepancy?

    You’re still putting forward an argument of the form “I found two examples* of people crying wolf about racism, so racism must not really be a problem.” That’s beyond inane. Presumably you also believe that the documented instances of women lying about being beaten or raped prove that violence against women is not really a problem either?

    *And could find at least seven more, I’m sure…

  18. Kylopod says:

    I finally decided to click on Jenos’ link, curious about the Hillary/DeBlasio story. It led to an opinion piece at Hot Air, discussing an incident at a charity event with the two politicians in which DeBlasio made a joke using the term “CP time.” The Hot Air piece acted as if the incident caused no controversy, and the writer lamented, “This is the kind of thing that no Republican candidate would survive unscathed.”

    As it stands, I clicked on a link within the article which sent me to a Wikipedia entry on “CP time,” which itself sent me to a CBS News article on the DeBlasio incident, which mentioned a few details that were curiously omitted from the Hot Air piece:

    The African-American website TheRoot.com called the joke “cringeworthy,” as did the liberal site Salon.com. The left-leaning site RawStory.com similarly called it “painful,” while the conservative website TownHall.com called it “absolutely painful” and lamented, “It’s only racist if Republicans do it.”

    So apparently DeBlasio (who had to address the “controversy” on CNN) did not quite emerge from the incident unscathed; it did in fact cause something of a stir, including among liberals. As usual, the right-wing grievance narrative turns out to be much less than meets the eye.

  19. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Kylopod: You are aware that Townhall owns Hot Air, right?

    So, you found three sites calling it “cringeworthy” and “painful.” Got any calling it “hateful” or “bigoted” or “racist?” Any calls for their stepping down from their positions? Any demands that they be denounced by their peers, or risk being exposed as racists?

    In other words, them being treated just like any Republican who had said the same thing?

  20. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian:
    I know there isn’t much point, but in your effort to shine a light on your (Hot Air’s) perception of racism you haven’t found a smoking gun. The GAP Kids ad was only really condemned on Twitter and by one African American publication. The Huffington Post and other left of center publications wrote about it in largely neutral terms pointing out the ad from the previous year and noting that it was at best/worst complicated. In fact is was an African American filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry that pointed out the previous ad on Twitter.*
    Compare that with the near universal criticism of the CPT skit with DeBlasio, Clinton and Odom (who you conveniently fail to mention was part of the skit). If you take to Twitter I can guarantee you will find commentary every bit as caustic about Clinton and DeBlasio’s skit as there was about the GAP ad.
    Once again you compare apples (twitter comments) and oranges (news articles) in your attempt to paint liberals as being hypocrites and still you failed.

    Any calls for their stepping down from their positions? Any demands that they be denounced by their peers, or risk being exposed as racists?

    Did anyone at GAP lose their jobs over this? Did Ellen DeGeneres have to denounce GAP or did anyone outside of anonymous Twitter commenters call for DeGeneres to be denounced on pain of being labelled a racist? No? Wow! It’s almost as if you are spreading BS in an attempt to distract from the point being made by the article.

    * To go a bit further on this point, in the new ad the African American girl is largely passive throughout the commercial while the white girls are active and athletic. It isn’t just the final pose, but the totality of the commercial that has led some to criticize.

  21. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Grewgills: Compare that with the near universal criticism of the CPT skit with DeBlasio, Clinton and Odom (who you conveniently fail to mention was part of the skit). If you take to Twitter I can guarantee you will find commentary every bit as caustic about Clinton and DeBlasio’s skit as there was about the GAP ad.

    Yeah, I really should have mentioned a Broadway actor along with the mayor of New York and the leading Democratic candidate for president. What a tremendous oversight on my part.

    I’m not asking much here. I’m just asking that Democratic politicians be held to the same standard as Republican politician. Or an admission that there is a double standard.

    As for the Gap ad, the girls’ mother has spoken out. The younger girl is shyer than her older sister. And isn’t she a little young to be asked to uphold your ideal standard for all young black girls? Why can’t you just let her be herself, even if that self is not as boisterous and outgoing and energetic as you think she should be? And did it occur to anyone that her age and stature might be more relevant to her behavior than her race?

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes a little girl is just a little girl.

  22. gVOR08 says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Yeah, I really should have mentioned a black Broadway actor who had the key line in the gag

    I hope you don’t mind that I filled in a couple of details, you must have been a little rushed this morning.

  23. Jenos Idanian says:

    @gVOR08: Which aspect of his performance do you consider more “key?”

    1) The overly sensitive to racial matters black man who calls attention to an apparently racist comment.

    2) The black man who gives his blessing to laugh, because it’s absurd to think that rich, powerful white people could ever be racist.

    I think it’s a tossup, myself. Both were essential to the skit.

  24. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    I’m not asking much here. I’m just asking that Democratic politicians be held to the same standard as Republican politician. Or an admission that there is a double standard.

    No, you are pretending that there was more condemnation of a GAP ad that some people considered passively racist and a skit in poor taste by DeBlasio and Clinton. You have been shown multiple times that that simply is not true. You have also left out or mischaracerized a few details to suit you argument.
    The condemnation of the Gap ad was almost exclusively on Twitter, not by major left wing outlets. The major left wing outlets pretty much all gave Gap a pass and said it was perhaps complicated and worth talking about, but that Gap hadn’t done anything obviously wrong. Several prominent and left leaning African Americans defended the Gap, even posting the picture that you and Hot Air claims the left ignored. You paint this as near universal condemnation of the Gap ad by the left. That is simply untrue.
    The condemnation of the skit was every bit as heated on Twitter (likely moreso from the snapshots I’ve seen) and that criticism was joined by several major left leaning sites. The skit was stupid and tone deaf and that was rightly pointed out by many. To you, this is the Left ignoring the incident and giving Clinton and DeBlasio a pass. That is fundamentally dishonest.
    At the end of the day, people are going to support the people that they perceive to be working in their best interests. To date in the primaries African Americans have overwhelmingly seen that person as Clinton and more overt racists and xenophobes have seen that person to be Trump. Remember, that is the ‘only poll that counts’.

  25. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Grewgills: BTW. Hillary’s already throwing De Blasio uder the bus over the skit. I don’t see too much fallout for Hillary over this, though — she’s already gone to kiss Al Sharpton’s ring, so she’s collected her ego te absolvo.

  26. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian:
    So, in your mind neither Clinton nor DeBlasio got in a lick of trouble for the skit, yet now DeBlasio is being thrown under the bus. Why on earth would someone need to be thrown under a bus when you’ve said there is no bus?

  27. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @gVOR08: Well, Torquemada mostly tortured Jews; is that close enough to Muslims?

  28. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Jenos Idanian: Your statements (and the thinking that underlies them) remind me of my sainted (as of last year about this time) mother. For about a decade (starting in about late 1969) she asserted that it was wrong to prosecute anyone for murder “as long as Ted Kennedy was getting away with it.”

    But I guess that in Jenosopia, even the singular of “anecdote” is “data.”

  29. Kylopod says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: I hate to nitpick on an analogy, but the Spanish Inquisition targeted Muslims too.

  30. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Grewgills: So, in your mind neither Clinton nor DeBlasio got in a lick of trouble for the skit, yet now DeBlasio is being thrown under the bus. Why on earth would someone need to be thrown under a bus when you’ve said there is no bus?

    There’s this little thing called “time” that is Nature’s way of making sure everything doesn’t happen all at once. Here’s the sequence of events.

    1) Hillary and De Blasio had their little racist skit. (April 9.)

    2) A huge shitstorm about racism failed to materialize, like it would have if the politicians involved had not been good liberal Democrats.

    3) I noted the absence of the shitstorm, as did a lot of others. (This was on April 11.)

    4) Hillary realizes she dodged the shitstorm, but it still could materialize, so she throws De Blasio under the bus in hopes of averting a belated shitstorm. (This was on April 12.)

    5) I note Hillary’s move. (This was on April 13.)

    6) You note my noting, and somehow wonder why I didn’t account for #4 before it actually happened. (This was on April 15.)

    7) I give you a very simplified explanation of the nature of linear time. (Today, April 17.)

    Do I need to simplify it further?

  31. We all one thing is for certain: the fact that this happened proves a) the Dems are actually the racists, b) racism really isn’t a problem in this country, and c) Jenos takes the race issue very, very seriously.

  32. Dazedandconfused says:

    “Divide and rule” was the modus operandi of the 19th century colonialists. Get them fighting each other rather than you. A lot of effort is put into that here, although I wonder if they are aware of it. It’s instinctive for a lot of them, I’m afraid. Vested interests and all that.

    The sad fact is good jobs are something of a zero sum game. Every time a black is hired an “American” must do without. As Americans get poorer the day may come when they notice they have a lot in common with Urbanites, and the pitchforks will start to face the same direction….

  33. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I’d ask you to back up your assertions that I said that THE racists are exclusively Democrats (hint: I said no such thing), but it’s clear you don’t feel like having an actual dialogue on race, so why bother?

  34. @Jenos Idanian: I have honestly never seen a single post from you that gives me any hope you have any interest whatsoever in a serious discussion on this topic (or that you personally take the topic seriously).

  35. al-Ameda says:

    Over time, Americans’ party identification has become more closely aligned with answers to this question and others like it. Pew reports that, “since 1987, the gap on this question between the two parties has doubled — from 18 points to 40 points.” Democrats are now much more supportive (52 percent) of efforts to improve racial equality than they were a few decades ago, while the views of Republicans have been largely unchanged (12 percent agree).

    However much Republicans want it to be, the fact is, passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts about 50 years ago did not end racism.

    Electorally, since the 1968, Republicans, by way of their ‘Southern Strategy, have been the place, a welcoming place to be sure, for disaffected working class white voters to be. It worked well and Republican 7 of 10 presidential elections from 1968 to 2004. White male voters are now a strong GOP bloc.

    The 300 year legacy of slavery, apartheid, segregation and Jim Crow did not magically end with 1964-1965 civil rights legislation or Court decisions like Brown v Board of Education. Race will continue to be very important in our politics – how could anyone think otherwise?