’08 Results Foretold by Racial Demographics?

Chuck Todd from MSNBC made the most telling remark last evening about the 2008 primary season. Todd, really a numbers guru, made the comment that all the histrionics aside, all you really need to do to assess which states have been going to Clinton and Which to Obama is to look at a census report and apply freshman level statistics.

Basically the claim, as David Sirota has written, is that Obama wins states with under 6% African-Americans and states with over about 18% African-Americans. Clinton wins states that have an African American population of between 6-18%.

My question for this post is: Is it likely that this model will apply this NOvember?

This thesis explains Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, and pretty much all the states Obama lost. I say Obama lost, rather than states that Clinton won because Obama is going to be the nominee.

Question: Are there sufficinet states fitting the Sirota thesis to give Obama an electoral college lock?

If they do, then Obama is likely to  win the election in November. If they don’t, then something pretty substantial will need to change for Obama to win in NOvember.

I recognize that there is little to no correlation between states that a candidate wins in a primary and the subsequent voting in the general election. But, there might well be some legitimate connection between voters that won’t vote for Obama because he is black in the primary and those same voters voting in the general election.

The thesis behind Todd’s comments, and Sirota’s model is that states that have between 6-18% african american populations, have had the collective experience of racial tension since the 1960s.  As racial tensions harden over the decades since the 60s and 70s,and are hardnede still by economically troubled times like we are in now, they can approximate voting patterns regarding the racial makeup of the candidate.  very sad, but apparently true.

Todd and Sirota suggest that neither Obama nor Clinton needs to have raised and spent hundreds of millions of dollars this primary seasons. In a sense, the conclusion was foretold by this one demographic statistic. 

some serious analsyis is needs posulating how this thesis applies to the general election this fall.



5 responses to “’08 Results Foretold by Racial Demographics?

  1. Pingback: ‘08 Results Foretold by Racial Demographics? | Politics in America

  2. Do you do blogroll exchanging? If you want to exchange links let me know.

    Email me back if you’re interested.

  3. A friend of mine just emailed me one of your articles from a while back. I read that one a few more. Really enjoy your blog. Thanks

  4. Very good point Rob. The demographics really do cut through all the spin quite nicely in this case. I would add age dynamics to that, saying states with more older voters (old enough to have experienced some of the ’60s, over about 45) leaned Clinton as well. There were also some geographic subtleties (notably Appalachia) and the presence of a white creative class helped Obama as well (recently Oregon and NC). But your point that the campaigns themselves were somewhat ancillary to demographics is dead on.

    I don’t however, think these dynamics will be the same for the general. This primary was a nearly unique situation, a hard-fought competitive primary where policy platforms were virtually identical. This was almost like a sociological lab experiment. But that will not be the case with Obama-McCain.

    To show that the percentage of black voters will clearly not carry the same correlation to election outcome in November, I give you three states: Idaho, Mississippi and New York. Going by our theory, ID which has very few blacks should go strong Obama, MS which is about 35% black should go strong Obama, and NY at around the national average of 12% should go strong McCain. If that happens, I’ll change my name to Ebenezer and grow a handlebar moustache.

  5. Ebenezer, nice moustache, and even better counterfactual. thanks.

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