Whites Voted For Obama, Proving They’re Racist!
Larry Bartels examines the voting behavior of white Americans on Election Day and finds that, as he expected, we were very, very racist:
According to the exit polls, Obama outpolled the previous Democratic nominee, John Kerry, among people from small towns and rural areas and among gun owners. He also did better than Kerry among white males, white Protestants, and white evangelicals. In short, the culture clash seems to have fizzled among many of the people supposedly most alienated by the cosmopolitan bent of the contemporary Democratic Party.
Obama actually recorded some of his biggest gains among white voters in some of the most culturally conservative parts of the country. He outpolled Kerry by 6 to 10 percentage points among white voters in Indiana, North Dakota, Utah, Montana, Nebraska, and—yes—Thomas Frank’s Kansas. In contrast, exit polls recorded smaller gains for Obama among white voters in bastions of elitism like New York, Connecticut, and California.
The perception that white Americans succeeded in transcending racial antipathy is reinforced by the fact that only 9% of voters in the exit poll said that race was a major factor in their decision, and they mostly voted for Obama.
So, that’s a good thing, right? At least from the standpoint of race relations? I mean, here we have a clean, articulate African American with virtually no governing experience outperforming a white war hero with serious foreign policy chops and years in the United States Senate!
Not so fast, says Bartels.
[T]here is a good deal of circumstantial evidence suggesting that racial resentment eroded Obama’s support among white voters. His gains relative to Kerry were significantly smaller in states with large numbers of African-Americans—a pattern disguised in the overall vote totals by his strong support among African-Americans themselves. In the former Confederacy he gained only slightly over Kerry among white voters, despite making big gains in two key swing states, North Carolina and Virginia. The only states in the country in which he lost more than a point or two of white support were Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi.
Now, waitaminute. Obama gained among white voters even in nine of the thirteen states in the former Confederacy and this is evidence of white racism? (Whereas, of course, blacks turning out in record numbers to support the black guy is mere civic pride rather than racism.) Huh?
Did the exit polls ask any other questions than 1) Who did you vote for? and 2) What color are you? Because I’m guessing that there might be all manner of reasons that Obama fared worse than Kerry in those four states. Maybe there was differential turnout based on downballot issues and candidates? Maybe the “experience” issue resonated more deeply there? Maybe the Hillary Factor played more of a role there, especially in Arkansas? Maybe they perceived Obama as more liberal? Maybe there are more guys named Joe or more plumbers in those states?
Matt Yglesias adds,
Obama improved on John Kerry’s vote share by 4.2 percentage points. His share of the white vote, by contrast, went up by only two percentage points whereas his share of the African-American vote went up seven points and of the Hispanic vote by 14 points. In other words, there was more rather than less divergence in white and non-white voting behavior.
But “divergence” isn’t a measure of racism. Presumably, there were myriad factors that went into blacks voting for Obama in record numbers; surely, the historic nature of a serious black candidate for the presidency was at or near the top of the list, though. As for Hispanics, one presumes the “of color” thing played a role, along with immigration and other issues.