Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More on racial idealism: Agnostic made a good suggestion to look at General Social Survey data to see if white Democrats in the mountain states are more racially idealistic than in other regions because of inexperience. Just raise a question about data, and I come-a-runnin'.

The best I could do was a question about how warm do you feel toward blacks. Answers ranged from very warm (1) to very cool (9). I calculated the means for each of the nine divisions of the country for whites who voted for Gore in 2000. I subtracted the means from 9 so that high scores would indicate the most warmth toward blacks (N=1,442).

Mean score of warmth toward blacks

Pacific 5.94
Mountain 5.65
New England 5.63
East North Central 5.61

All white Gore voters 5.56

West North Central 5.51
Middle Atlantic 5.41
East South Central 5.25
West South Central 5.22
South Atlantic 5.18

These results, overall, support the idea that white Democrats are most positive toward blacks in regions with few blacks. The South is cool, while New England, the Mountain states, and the Pacific region are warmest. The West North Central (WNC) region (SD, ND, MN, IA, MO, NE, KS), however, doesn't have many blacks but is moderately cool.

The warmest states also tended to vote for Obama, with exceptions like Massachusetts. California is also warm but voted for Hillary, but Hispanic Democrats explain that. The Middle Atlantic states are cool, and have been likely to vote for Hillary. And of course, the cool South has voted for Hillary, except in states with many black voters. So, overall, the idea that white Democrats voted for Obama because of idealistic feelings towards blacks holds up, with the WNC region being an exception.


  1. That is showing this nominating cycle for sure.

    The larger the black share of a state's voting population, the more likely whites in that state were to flock to Clinton. Looking at all the contests that have taken place so far [up to Super Tuesday], there has been an inverse correlation of .35 (confidence just a hair outside 90%) between the percentage of a state's voters who are black and the amount of support Obama garners among whites in that state.

    That's quite rigorous actually, given that obliterations like Illinois are outliers that attenuate the statistical relationship. Further, the real relationship is likely stronger than that, as my computation for results of all contests thus far (including those before Super Tuesday) are as though only Hillary and Obama were running--in reality, most of Edwards' (overwhelmingly white) supporters in the southern states would have gone to Hillary if it had been a two horse race at that point.

  2. Anonymous12:13 PM

    There is a fairly substantial black population in New England, especially in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

  3. Anonymous1:41 PM

    And of course, the cool South has voted for Hillary, except in states with many black voters

    So if Hillary attempts in any way to obtain votes in southern states can she be easily dismissed as a white racist using a "Southern Strategy"?

  4. Anonymous2:13 PM

    So if Hillary attempts in any way to obtain votes in southern states can she be easily dismissed as a white racist using a "Southern Strategy"?

    Essentially, yes. And if you are a white person and don't vote for Barack Obama, you are nothing but a white-sheet wearing, cross-burning, noose-hanging, Klansperson who is a jackboot wearing skinhead on off days and writes letters to Tom Metzger. You heard it here first.

  5. Anonymous8:25 PM

    Do you have any data from the sub-sections of the South? I predict the coolest whites of all towards the negro tend to come from the Black Belt counties that stretch from Maryland to Texas where negroes are demographically predominant.

  6. prozium: There are county-level data on percent black and percent who voted for Obama which could be used as a proxy for warmth toward blacks, but that would require some work to put together. But I imagine you're right.

    I've said to my students that we're told that prejudice is caused by ignorance, but then I ask them why the South--the region with the most experience with blacks--likes blacks the least. (I ask it rhetorically and quickly move on so it doesn't make its way back to my superiors.)


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