By Alexis Karteron
Special to the NNPA from thedefendersonline.com
There has been widespread speculation about President-Elect Barack Obama’s campaign and election heralding a “post-racial” America. In conversations across the nation and such headlines as “Obama, Racial Barrier Falls in Heavy Turnout,” (The New York Times) and “Obama’s Post-Racial Promise,” (Los Angeles Times) following the election, some seemed eager to believe that Americans had come together in unprecedented ways on Election Day
While Obama’s victory proves this proposition true in some respects, election results indicate that race did play a decisive role in voting choices.
While the much-discussed “Bradley Effect” – best described as the disconnect between what white voters tell pollsters they are going to do in the voting booth and what they actually do – did not materialize as many had feared, exit poll results reveal that race still matters and the electorate was not as unified as some seemed to hope.
Simply put, Barack Obama was not the overwhelming choice of all voters. Roughly 131 million Americans voted this year. While about 8 million more cast ballots than in 2004, this number constitutes just 63 percent of those eligible to vote. This turnout rate was only the third highest since 1920, when women got the right to vote. [For the record, 1960 saw America's highest turnout rate in a presidential election, with 64.8 percent of eligible Americans voting, but an even higher rate of 67.8 percent of those who were actually eligible to vote are considered, i.e., if southern Blacks who were overwhelmingly denied the right to vote are excluded from the population base].
Of those 131 million, Obama received roughly 53 percent of the vote. While that may seem like a resounding victory given the closer results of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, it is hardly sufficient to suggest that Americans are particularly united in their support for the President-Elect.
The story of who composed the winning Obama coalition gets more interesting when you look at the details. For example, contrary to conventional wisdom, the youth vote was not particularly robust as compared to recent elections. As two political scientists recently described, “[v]oters under the age of thirty made up 18 percent of the electorate in 2008, compared to 17 percent in 1996, 2000, and 2004, nowhere near the historic highs of 1972 and 1992.
Had Obama relied only on a surge among young voters, holding other groups at the 2004 voting behaviors, he would have fallen short of victory.” Given that background, race is particularly important. Obama owes his victory both to a substantial increase in the number of minority voters, and their overwhelming support of his candidacy.
A look at the racial breakdown of Obama’s winning coalition yields some interesting food for thought:
* Black voters constituted 13 percent of voters, an increase from 11% in 2004;
* Hispanics made up nine percent of the electorate, up from eight percent in 2004;
* 95 percent of Blacks and 67 percent of Hispanics voted for Obama.
An initial analysis by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies estimates that Black turnout swelled by approximately 23 percent, meaning that an astounding three million more Blacks cast ballots than in 2004. However, the enthusiasm among Black voters for Obama was decidedly not shared by whites. Obama received 43 percent of the white vote, up from Kerry’s 41 percent of the white vote in 2004, the only group that did not, on the whole, vote for Obama.
The South, in particular, stands out as a region where whites and Blacks voted differently. In what is likely another indication of Black voters’ incredible enthusiasm for Obama, several Southern states experienced record turnout. For example, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina all posted new turnout records despite their lack of attention from the candidates. However, Obama received strikingly low support from white voters in those same states – lower even than John Kerry received in 2004. According to exit polls, just 10 percent of whites in Alabama pulled the lever for Obama, for example.
In short, the 2008 election results indicate that race does, in fact, matter quite a bit for voting behavior. While we celebrate Barack Obama’s historic victory and what it means for the progress of race relations in the United States, we can remain confident that race continues to play a role in American politics, as it does in our society as a whole.
David Bositis, Blacks and the 2008 Election, A Preliminary Analysis, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
Stephen Ansolabehere and Charles Stewart III, Amazing Race, How Post-Racial Was Obama’s Victory? Boston Review (Jan./Feb. 2009)
African-Americans, Anger, Fear and Youth Propel Turnout to Highest Level Since 1960, Center for the Study of the American Electorate
Alexis Karteron is Assistant Counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Weather for Eutaw, Ala. Sunday Monday TuesdayPartly Cloudy90/70Partly Cloudy90/68Clear88/70
- May 2013 (26)
- April 2013 (32)
- March 2013 (37)
- February 2013 (31)
- January 2013 (43)
- December 2012 (33)
- November 2012 (40)
- October 2012 (42)
- September 2012 (35)
- August 2012 (50)
- July 2012 (41)
- June 2012 (37)
- May 2012 (43)
- April 2012 (38)
- March 2012 (35)
- February 2012 (43)
- January 2012 (36)
- December 2011 (45)
- November 2011 (43)
- October 2011 (36)
- September 2011 (45)
- August 2011 (29)
- July 2011 (13)
- June 2011 (18)
- May 2011 (15)
- April 2011 (14)
- March 2011 (18)
- February 2011 (14)
- January 2011 (15)
- December 2010 (16)
- November 2010 (13)
- October 2010 (13)
- September 2010 (15)
- August 2010 (10)
TagsAlabama New South Coalition ANSC Bingo disbursement Black Farmer Lawsuit CEO Luther"Nat" Winn CFO Paula Bird Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell Dr. Martin Luther King Eutaw City Council Eutaw Mayor Raymond Steele Federal Emergency Management Agency ( FEMA) Federation of Southern Cooperatives /Land Assistance Fund Fund First Lady Michelle Obama George Zimmerman Greene Co. Sheriff Joe Benison Greene County Board of Education Greene County Commission Greene County Commissioner Greene County High School Greene County School System Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison Greene County Superintendent Dr. Emma Louie Greenetrack Greenetrack Bingo Inc John Zippert Jr. Lester Brown Mayor Hattie Edwards Mayor Pro-Tem Hattie Edwards Mayor Raymond Steele Mitt Romney NAACP Nick Underwood President Barack Obama President Obama Rev. Al Sharpton SCLC Senator Hank Sanders Superintendent Emma Louie Superintendent Isaac Atkins Supreme Court The Black Belt Community Foundation BBCF Grants Trayvon Martin Vice President Joe Biden