Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, June 09, 2008

Sexism and Racism

Starting with the South Carolina primary, the Clinton campaign was making the argument that a Black candidate can't win in a general election. On the flip side, I'm still seeing interviews on CNN et al with Clinton surrogates that Hillary lost primarily because of rampant sexism directed against her. Do either of these views of American voters hold water? The videos posted earlier by Bell Curve show that the press coverage was full of misogyny especially but not exclusively on Fox News. But did sexism, as defined as voters who make their decision to support or oppose Hillary Clinton based on her gender, hurt her more than it helped her?

Looking at the CNN exit poll for Wisconsin, a state in which Hillary got clobbered even in the working class voters she later did well among we see some clues. First, 58% of the Democratic primary voters were women. Obama won 67% of the men and split among the women 50-50. About 28% of the voters were men who voted for Obama. This might suggest, an AHA! moment. But what if it is the even vote among women rather than the lopsided vote among men that was the anomaly? 12% of Wisconsin Democrats said that the gender of the candidate was one of several important factors in their decision. Among that group, 62% of them voted for Hillary. So 7.4% of Wisconsin Democrats were people who voted for Hillary because she is a woman. Conversely, about 4.6% of the voters voted against Hillary in large part because she is woman. Unfortunately, the poll is not reported in sufficient detail to determine the gender of these voters. If we can trust the self reporting about who votes based on gender at all, it would suggest that Hillary got more votes than she otherwise would have (about 2.8% of the vote) because she is a woman. I suspect that these polls probably over represent pro-Hillary sexism as women might be less embarrassed about saying that they'd vote for Hillary because of her gender than men would be about saying they'd vote against her for the same reason. But we have to wonder about how far off that bias drives the numbers. It could be quite significant and the gender issue would still be more or less a wash for Hillary.

What about racism? Racist remarks were far less common on TV news but there were a series of thinly veiled comments about race from the Clinton campaign - from Bill Clinton, from Geraldine Ferraro, not to mention the Clinton volunteer (later repudiated by Clinton) who sent mass emails to people saying that Barack Obama was a Muslim. But did it work any better than the misogynist attacks in the news media? 8% of Wisconsin voters were African American. 91% of them voted for Obama. So about 7.2% of Wisconsin voters were African Americans who voted for Obama. 10% of the voters said that the race of the candidate was one of several factors in the voting decision. Of those 53% voted for Obama. So 5.3% of Wisconsin voters voted for Obama because of his race. 4.7% voted against him because of his race. Obama was ahead on this issue by about .6% or less than 7000 voters. In Wisconsin, a largely white state, the race issue seems to have been a wash for Obama. It worked similarly to the gender issue for Hillary - albeit a little bit more negatively for Obama than gender was for Hillary.

So in Wisconsin the cynical view that American voters are bunch of sexists and racists doesn't seem to hold much water. But what about West Virginia?

Women: 53%
Black: 3%
Clinton: 67%
Obama: 26%
Saying gender an important factor: 11%
Gender voters voting for Clinton: 77%
Gender voters voting for Obama: 18%
Saying race most important factor: 8%
Race most important voters voting for Clinton: 86%
Race most important voters voting for Obama: 10%
Saying race one of several factors: 14%
Race voters voting for Clinton: 80%
Race voters voting for Obama: 13%

Interestingly, the West Virginia poll reports gender in more detail. 8% of voters in WVA were men who said gender was important. Among them, 64% voted FOR Hillary. 21% of WVA voters were Whites who said race was important to them. 84% of them voted AGAINST Obama. 17.6% of the vote went against Obama because of his race.

I take two things from this. Sexism and racism vary greatly by region in this country. Second, with an "n" of two (so huge caveats here) and using CNN's polls (more caveats), it appears as if sexist voting was far more likely to help Clinton than hurt her even in states where she lost. Racist voting was more complicated. In Wisconsin (a Midwestern swing state with very left wing pockets), it helped Obama. In West Virginia is was devastating.

So the claims by die hard Clinton supporters that she lost because of misogyny are probably invalid. At the same time, the claims that Obama can't win White voters are also not necessarily valid. That said, it probably is the case that Obama's race forces him to work from a different electoral map. He won't do well in places like West Virginia where the Clintons have a successful history. But he can compensate by doing better in the Midwest or in states with large numbers of heretofore untapped Black voters.

10 comments:

Dr. Strangelove said...

"[Obama] can compensate by doing better in... states with large numbers of heretofore untapped Black voters."

Which states are these? The African-American vote is pretty highly tapped by the Democrats everywhere already. In 2004, Kerry won 88% of African-American vote. Record numbers of people voted in 2004: 122 million voters, 60.7% participation rate (highest in 40 years). It is estimated that 14.6 million African-Americans voted in that election--a record--compared to 10.7 million on 2000. That's a 40% jump in actual black voter participation.

And by the way, that huge 2004 turnout represented a tremendous effort to organize the African-American vote in targeted areas. In Virginia, black voters increased from 16% to 21% of the electorate, while they only represented 18.4% of the voting age population. In North Carolina, black voters increased from 19% to 26% of the electorate, while they only represented 20% of the voting age population. In Pennsylvania, black voters increased from 7% to 13% of the electorate, while they only represented 9% of the voting age population.

So what I'm saying is, a massive effort was already made to organize African-American voters in 2004: a 40% increase in participation that made black voters over-represented in precisely those states you might hope Obama could now win. So let's be honest: how much better can Obama do among African-Americans? At most, Obama could squeeze out another two million votes nationwide... Yet surely he will lose at least that much to racism in precisely those states where the African-American vote is most vital.

More likely, Obama can win back Iowa and Missouri, then take the New Mexico, Colorado, and maybe Nevada. That is the better bet.

Raised By Republicans said...

Here is an interesting NPR story that talks about these issues:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=13903540

I think the main thrust of my post still holds. Sexism helped Hillary and Racism's effect on Obama's campaign was complex and regionally varied.

RCP has Obama currently winning in several Central and Moutain Time Zone states that voted for Bush in 2004 (and even in both 2000 and 2004): Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, and Missouri (barely). Obama's also leading McCain in the latest poll in Virginia and on average is within 2% of McCain in that state.

Raised By Republicans said...

A friend of mine who does research on race and representation in the US told me recently that studies have shown that racist voting among white voters goes down sharply after those voters have been represented by minority officials. For example, white voters in cities that have had Black mayors are less likely to vote against black candidates in the future.

Something to consider here. Ohio will likely go the direction Columbus sets in 2008. Columbus is overwhelmingly white and disproportionately educated. It also currently has a Black mayor.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I do not think misogyny caused Hillary to lose. And Obama can win white, working-class voters. I guess my point is: he really needs to. He just cannot squeeze much more out of the African-American voting bloc than the Democrats got in 2004.

I feel very optimistic about Obama's chances. My big fear is that another terrorist attack will interrupt the campaign and frighten voters. If that happens, McCain will play the old hardline card, telling cheering audiences that we will hit them with everything we've got. Will Obama be able to do the same?

The Law Talking Guy said...

I don't believe the African-American vote is tapped out. Although it has been rising, it is still generally true that African-American voter turnout is lower than white voter turnout.

What happened in the special elections in LA and MS show what can happen even in the South when African-Americans vote in numbers similar to white Americans.

The figures Dr.S. quotes showing black voters overrepresented in 2004 are interesting, and would contradict the lower turnout rate among black voters normally observed. Where do these numbers come from? What about Florida?

The Law Talking Guy said...

These #s are in Dailykos:

Percentage of Voter Turnout in 2004 - FL Florida Popoulation
(% turnout) and [% pop]
White (70%) [61.3%]
African American (12%) [15.8%]
Latino (15%) [20.2%]
Asian (1%) [2.2%]
Other (2%) [0.5%]

This shows lots of Cuban voters in Florida and fewer blacks, even in 2004.

Dr. Strangelove said...

The reference I found was this article on the black vote in 2004.

The paper used 2000 census data to determine black voting age population. This may be outdated.

I only quoted three states: VA, NC, and PA. The general trend was a high black voter turnout. But Florida actually bucked that trend quite a bit in 2004. (Or, if you prefer, African-Americans were discouraged from voting there by dirty tricks...)

USWest said...

I don't think Mysogny caused Hilary to loose. The election was way too close for that. I think that mysogny was alive and well in the campaign and I posted on this several times and tried to explain it from a woman's perspective.

She lost because people are skeptical of the role of Bill, because she got off message and off image, and because she didn't come across as terribly trustworthy all the time. She has a record in the Senate to run against and Obama did a good job of that.

We had a black man and a woman to choose from. People had to pick their prejudice if they had one to start with. The key is, they came out in droves to pick a democrat and we registered a lot of voters. We have to hold them for the next 5.5 months.

Raised By Republicans said...

I think it is nearly impossible to support the argument that Clinton lost votes because of sexism - regardless of the childish comments from the press.

I also think that Clinton has only herself to blame for her loss. As I posted before she guessed wrong when she was calculating what her position on the Iraq War should be. Then she hired her campaign staff based on loyalty to her rather than ability. Then those she hired, ran a miserable campaign based on flawed understandings of everything from basic get out the vote techniques to the effects of the electoral systems on delegate allocation.

For example: Clinton's campaign in Iowa spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on food platters and drinks to bring to the caucuses. In my precinct, the Clinton folks were the best fed group in the room. They were also the smallest of the big three. I suppose their reasoning was that people will be more likely to come if there is food provided (it takes hours to participate in a caucus). But think about it. Potential voters don't know there is food until they get there so the food isn't bringing in any voters even if it MIGHT keep them there once they arrive.

Edwards campaign folks got there early and monopolized every chair in the room for their rather aged voter base. Same problem. Chairs might keep grandpa in the room but grandpa won't find out there will be chairs until he gets there.

In contrast, Obama's campaign didn't spend money on that stuff but filled the streets with door knockers armed with address lists and phone numbers getting out their voters. I must have been reminded to go to the caucus three or four times in the last week of the campaign.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I presume the platters were not meant to buy votes with cookies. Although, given that there would have been tons of college-age Obama supporters, bribing with food is usually a safe bet. =)