2009 January 21 Wednesday
Researchers Find Obama Won Election On Race

MIT researchers find that Barack Obama won election by appealing more to blacks and Hispanics.

Some political observers have declared that the election of the first black president signals a new era of post-racial politics in the United States -- but the data show otherwise, two MIT researchers say.

Through careful analysis of 2008 exit-poll data, the researchers found that Barack Obama won the election precisely because of his race, most significantly because of his appeal among black voters who turned out in record numbers.

"Ironically, the candidate whom commentators lionized for ending America's debilitating racial divisions won the election on the basis of increasingly distinct white and nonwhite voting patterns," wrote the two researchers -- Charles H. Stewart III, the Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor and head of the Department of Political Science at MIT; and Stephen Ansolabehere, professor of political science at MIT -- in the current issue of Boston Review. "Racial polarization in American voting patterns was the highest it has been since the 1984 election."

Despite many predictions, Obama did not "provoke a backlash among white voters," according to research compiled by Stewart and Ansolabehere. However, the percentage of blacks voting Democratic rose from 88 percent in 2004 to 95 percent in 2008. Hispanic voters -- who had been drifting into the Republican camp in recent years -- heavily favored Obama; Hispanics voting Democratic rose from 56 percent to 67 percent. "This additional support among nonwhites proved decisive," Stewart and Ansolabehere concluded.

Indeed, "had blacks and Hispanics voted Democratic in 2008 at the rates they had in 2004, McCain would have won," they wrote.

The Republican Party is becoming the white party.

This is not to say that Democrats lost ground among white voters; the Democrats did gain white votes but only a modest 3 million. "John McCain, on the other hand, received 2.3 million fewer votes than did George W. Bush in 2004. Most of this loss, 1.5 million votes, came from the net defection of blacks and Hispanics who voted Republican four years earlier; by comparison he lost 'only' 1.4 million white voters. Thus, Obama gained not only by bringing new minority voters into the electorate, but also by converting minority voters who had previously been in the GOP stable," the researchers wrote.

The Republican Party is pretty much political road kill. Demographic trends doom it. I'm expecting higher taxes on the most productive. I'm also expecting declining living standards. Texas will go Third World. Barack Obama will be helpless to stop this trend. He might even accelerate it.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2009 January 21 08:03 PM  Politics Ethnicity

M said at January 22, 2009 4:15 AM:

"The Republican Party is pretty much political road kill. Demographic trends doom it"

And the GOP is itself a major reason for this,over the last 20 yrs the Stupid Party has rejected every opportunity to save it's long term future.

And Libertarians haven't helped.

After the '06 blow out,Bush finally ordered a crack down,as usual with Dubya,this was too little,too late.
Put me with those suspect the clumsy high profile work place roundups were more to discredit the very idea of employer sanctions than to have any real impact on the problem.

Given whats coming our way,I suspect neither party will benefit.

There is talk of traditionalists self purging as they are the designated scape goats for the debacles of the last 8 yrs.
Oddly,there was no such talk in '04 when "values voters" re-elected Bush and GOP majorities in the House and Senate.

Imagine a GOP after the so-cons leave.A party of NE liberals,libertarians and neo-cons,who would vote for that?
Pro-gay marriage and abortion,pro-taxes and big government,big business and war mongering.

A Prole. said at January 22, 2009 5:11 AM:

The funny thing is that poor Joe Sixpack (he is stupid enough to vote Republican because he thinks its 'the White party'), has been well and truly fucked over, ass-raped, humiliated and kicked in the teeth by the country-club crowd (who regard him as useless white trash) and who couldn't give a single molecule of a fart-fog about him or his family, actually they rub their hands together when his wages are ground down by the Mexes or Chinese, his health insurance goes - it all means more money for the country club set and perhaps a new yacht or plane or two.
Poor Joe Sixpack - torn between a party that hates him (he's only a set of muscles), and another that despises him (Whitey? - the damned opressor of the earth).
Where will the poor bastard turn to?

Eric Stratton, Rush Chairman said at January 22, 2009 6:41 AM:

"Hispanics voting Democratic rose from 56 percent to 67 percent."

Hmm, 56%. That means the authors of the study bought the Karl Rove/WSJ claim that Bush got 44% of the Hispanic vote, which if I am not mistaken was debunked not long after the election. If memory serves me, the total was more like 38-40% which is still higher than Republicans normally get, but certainly not close enough to make a credible case that Hispanics are somehow swing voters.

As for Randall's point that the GOP is roadkill, I'm not so sure. Demographic trends portend a tough time for conservatives, certainly, but we need to be careful not to automatically equate the GOP with conservatism. Our political system is not based on competition, it's actually closer to a cartel, designed to carve up votes and limit competition for same. Much more likely than the GOP disappearing is a lurch leftward to appeal to minorities. Since it's going to be difficult for both major parties to occupy the same ground, the Democrats will go even further left, leaving us with a religious, semi-socialist party (the GOP) and a secular quasi-communist party, the Democrats, who will probably most closely resemble the old style PRI in Mexico, i.e. widespread, barely concealed corruption, occasional outbreaks of violence as a means of settling scores, advocacy of censorship, etc. etc.

Where will small business owners and secular conservatives fit in? There's got to be several million people who fit into these categories, not to mention their sympathizers. Neither party will be a good fit, so where do they go?

Audacious Epigone said at January 22, 2009 10:56 AM:

Nice to see this done officially. But the Hispanic numbers are off. And even though his percentage of the white vote only dropped 3 points compared to Bush in '04, McCain still suffered an absolute loss of more white voters than non-white voters. The percentage of the Democratic-voting electorate that is white is dropping by about 1 percentage point every four years (it's about 66% now), while the GOP's white percentage is holding at about 90%. So conceivably, there is still time for the Republican party to win nationally, but it will require converting whites to the GOP.

M said at January 22, 2009 12:11 PM:

"leaving us with a religious, semi-socialist party (the GOP)"

Please,not everyone who attends church on even a semi-regular basis is a theocrat!
Gratuitous stereotyping isn't really helpful.

Anonymous said at January 22, 2009 1:33 PM:

The Democrats are the umbrella party for everyone who hates whites, men, straights, etc.
It's the party for minorities with a grudge or a sense of entitlement. "Whitey owes me"
or "Men owe me", or "Straights owe me".

The Republicans are not the white peoples party. They're the party of the rich. They pick
up white votes by default as it's obvious that Democrats don't want them around.

Who would make a country like this ? The Devil ? I mean what's the purpose of the USA ?
Just a torture chamber for people like me ?

Randall Parker said at January 22, 2009 9:41 PM:


Yes, I should have mentioned that the Hispanic numbers for Bush are wrong. This brings up an important question: Are the numbers bandied about for Hispanic voting in 2008 just as inaccurate as the numbers the press reported in 2004?

Stopped Clock aka Sleep said at January 23, 2009 7:36 AM:

An increase in the minority population is not necessarily going to move the country leftward. The way I see it, America's position on most of the social issues that appeal to white liberals has been moving rightward ever since the great civil rights movement of the 1960s. Racial agitators have crowded out the environmentalists, feminists, abortionists, gay rights activists, atheists, drug users, and so on, apart from referendum victories at local levels in majority-white liberal queendoms like Vermont and San Francisco. The way I see it, the conquest of the Democratic Party by racial minority interests could go two ways. One possibility is that the white liberals will be essentially silenced as the Democrats cater more and more to their black and Mexican power base. The Republicans might move leftward to catch some of these disaffected Democrats, but gay marriage and atheism will essentially remain fringe issues that neither party wants to touch. In this sense America as a whole will come to more closely resemble the Deep South and some Latin American countries such as Brazil that are basically conservative inasmuch as they can afford to be (but note that although these countries tend to have stricter laws regarding drug penalties and such, the crime rate is so high that in practice drug use is more widespread than in the USA.)

But the other possibility (and the more likely one, in my opinion) is that the Democrat elite will realize that they can do essentially anything they want without losing the votes of blacks and Mexicans, and so they really will move leftward on non-racial social issues. The slow rightward drift of the country since the 1960's can be explained as a natural reaction to its excesses, and only a temporary setback in the overall leftward drift.

Audacious Epigone said at January 23, 2009 9:23 AM:


Steve suspects they will turn out to be, when the Census releases its own report on election patterns, since that has been the case in recent previous elections.

The Hispanic percentage being reported in national exit polling is 9%, even though an aggregate of state totals puts it a little under 8%. In reality, it's probably even lower than that.

As far as which way Hispanics vote, the states that have Hispanics broken out are reasonble compared to the national figure for Hispanic support of Obama this time around as opposed to '04. But there are a few fishy occurences. In Colorado, for example, McCain is shown to have gained 8 points among Hispanics compared to Bush in '04 (a 16 point total shift), even though overall Colorado moved strongly to the Democratic side.

Robert Hume said at January 23, 2009 2:24 PM:

I don't know what the percentage Republican the white vote is in the South ... but since whites are only about 60% of the population in some of those states ... which go Republican ... the percentage must be nearly 80%.

So if race becomes a big issue, as it has always been in the south, the percentage of whites voting Republican nationwide might approach the percentage of blacks voting Democratic.

In which case the Republican party could take the nation, just as it takes the South.

Four years of Obama might trigger such an emotional "reset" in the minds of most whites, even in non-southern states.

So that will work until whites are an absolute minority of voters; which is a long way away.

Steve Sailer said at January 23, 2009 3:23 PM:

I have a few questions about turnout that won't be answered until the Census releases its survey of turnout much later this year.

It's pretty obvious that black turnout was very high.

What about Hispanic turnout? Did they get excited about voting for Obama?

What about white turnout? I tend to suspect that 2008 was like the 1998 gubernatorial race in California in which whites just didn't show up to vote in big numbers because there was nothing about the candidates or the issues the candidates chose to run on than motivated them.

Stopped Clock said at January 23, 2009 3:41 PM:

Robert Hume: "Race conscious" Alabama and Mississippi (to use Keith Olbermann's terminology) whites voted 88% for McCain in 2008. I really doubt though that the rest of the nation will ever turn into 88's. Obama isn't going to send whites to re-education camps or anything. I really doubt his presidency will be much different than Clinton's. In the long term, I suspect more whites will go over to the Republican side, continuing a trend that has been in place for 50 years now, but it's not going to happen all at once just because we have a black president now.

M said at January 24, 2009 8:48 AM:

"Four years of Obama might trigger such an emotional "reset" in the minds of most whites, even in non-southern states."

Depends on how fast and far,deep and wide the burden of affirmative action and redistribution programs move up the food chain to affect the prosperous trendy left,those who vote as a statement of social class rather than social conscience.As these are also the people who lived up to and beyond their means to afford that trendy urban lifestyle,they'll be among the hardest hit as their condos and lofts lose value and become unsellable at a decent price.
Incompatible goals and competition for resources create conflict(this also applies to blacks when they finally realize they're about lose power and resources to hispanics).

"So that will work until whites are an absolute minority of voters; which is a long way away."

Not if the GOP,libertarians and the WSJ have any say about it!
The WSJ's latest insanity is to bring peace to the middle east by importimg the Palestinian's youth bulge.
2 to 3 hundred thousand testosterone drenched young males raised from birth in a culture of hate and violence,well,that should make things so damned "vibrant" and "dynamic", Tyler Cowan may even wet himself!

BTW,this entire thread and the language,ideas,etc in use simply show how thoroughly the "Right" has lost the culture war.

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