Race in 08

Matt examines the racial swings of this election:

The issue in play here is to some extent obscured by the general upward trajectory. But overall, 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.

Admittedly, this seems incredibly marked in the grand scheme of things, but it seems to me to miss the broader point of the past few cycles. For example, yes, Obama increased Kerry’s margin with Hispanics by a substantial amount, but he was still 5% below  the 72% mark Clinton managed during his re-election campaign. Indeed, 2004 was a low point for Democrats, as Kerry managed a relatively meager 53% in the nadir of a short term swing of Hispanic voters towards the GOP from 1996 to 2008, in which the Democratic share of the Hispanic vote fell from 72% in 1996, to 62% in 2000, to 53% in 2004 before rebounding back to 67% in 2008. There’s a lot of possible explanations for that, but that’s largely irrelevant to the statistical comparison.

On the other hand, as you’d expect Obama represents a high point for Democrats with African Americans. Clinton got 86% of the black vote in 1996, Gore managed 90%, Kerry 88%, and Obama an astounding 95%. The white vote, in contrast, was relatively stable over this period in time. Clinton took 43% in 1996, Gore 42%, Kerry got 41%, and Obama matched Clinton’s 43%. So the racial narrative of this election is simple; Obama reached parity with generic Democrats with white voters, recovered a substantial number of Hispanic voters for the Democratic Party, and sits atop the culmination of an increasing trend in regards to African American voters. This is evidence, if anything, of a collapse in the GOP’s “Hispanic Strategy” Rove hoped to use as part of his Permanent Majority, but one that still leaves Democrats below their peak levels of support from Hispanics.

(all exit poll data via CNN)