White Voters and Obama: Nothing Special

[imgbelt img=whitevoters.jpg]There’s been a lot made of the low support among white voters for President Obama. The implication is that white voters are biased against a black candidate. The fact is that white voters are treating candidate Obama no differently than other Democratic candidates over the past three decades.

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struggles” with white voters. The Washington Post reports the “deepest racial split since ’88.” You’ll hear a lot about Obama’s problem with white voters Tuesday as results come in. 

Last week a political scientist made a point that deserves hearing:

Obama doesn’t have a special problem with white voters. The fact is that white voters have a problem with Democrats in general — and have for decades.

Eric Juenke is a political scientist at Michigan State University. He wrote last week for The Monkey Cage about Obama’s “problem” with white voters. Yes, Juenke wrote, President Obama is behind — way behind — with white voters. He continues: 

But this misses a central point: Since the mid-1970’s Democrats have had a white voter “problem.” Obama is a Democrat. This is by far the best lens through which to view white support for Obama.  Conversely, it is also the best lens through which to view black support for Obama.  For example, LBJ received essentially the same level of black support in 1964 as did Obama in 2008.

The implication in all of this is that prejudice is behind this “gap.” President Obama is African-American, so the lack of white voter support is a sign of bias.

Not so, Juenke says. All recent Democrats have had low support among white voters. Obama’s support among white voters in 2008, in fact, was relatively high — for a Democrat.

The chart above shows the Republican and Democratic shares of white votes since 1988 according to the exit polls. (Third parties are excluded.) As you can see, Obama in 2008 did relatively well among white voters, compared to other white Democrats.

Here is the rest of Juenke’s post:

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