Obama Stronger Among White Voters than Gore or Kerry

Remember all of the talk about Barack Obama's unique weakness among White voters? I noted the absurdity of this assertion earlier this month, but I thought it would be worth passing on a portion of professor Alan Abramowitz's analysis on the issue.

So does Barack Obama have a problem with white voters? The answer is a resounding "yes." And so has every other Democratic presidential candidate in the past forty years. The last Democratic candidate for president to win a majority of the white vote was Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Al Gore lost the white vote by 12 points in 2000. John Kerry lost the white vote by 17 points in 2004.

Based on five national polls that have been conducted this month--Gallup, Newsweek, Quinnipiac, CBS/New York Times, and ABC/Washington Post--Barack Obama is currently trailing John McCain by an average of nine points among white voters. So Obama is doing much better than John Kerry and a little better than Al Gore. In fact, the only Democratic presidential candidates in the past four decades who have done better among white voters were Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. Not coincidentally, they were also the only successful Democratic presidential candidates in the past four decades. Based on his current showing in the polls, Barack Obama may well be the next one. With whites expected to comprise less than 80 percent of the 2008 electorate, and with a 20-1 margin among black voters and a 2-1 margin among Hispanic voters, Obama's current nine point deficit among white voters would translate into a decisive victory in November.

Shocking, no... the numbers not lining up with the narrative pushed by a large segment of the punditry. Would it be better if Obama were able to secure a greater share of the White vote? Sure. But politics is about building coalitions, and there is no one single path to success that runs only through the support of White voters in America. Democrats can and repeatedly have secured pluralities and even majorities within the broader electorate even while carrying a minority of the White vote -- and, frankly, it seems more likely than not at this juncture that Obama will win in such a manner this year, too.

Tags: Barack Obama, White House 2008, white voters (all tags)

Comments

8 Comments

Probably more appeal

with Midwestern and Mountain state White voters, less in the Appalachian states.

by parahammer 2008-07-20 09:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Stronger Among White Voters than Gore or

An '08 Democrat is in stronger position than '00 or '04.

Per usual, situational influence is under emphasized. Kerry was facing an incumbent with his party in power only one term, the most unfavorable scenario imaginable. Gore's cycle was basically 50/50, the out party dynamic and Monicagate favoring Bush but the economic strength leveling it.

Every Carter and Clinton cycle was favorable, Watergate in '76, 3 straight GOP term fatigue in '92, and the incumbent/one term situation in '80 and '96. Only Carter's malaise with the misery index, Iran situation, and resulting horrific 40ish approval rating, doomed us in '80.

If you stuck Obama in any of those cycles I doubt he'd fare better among whites than the Democrats who were involved. No doubt he'd do worse than Clinton in '92 and '96. No doubt worse than Carter in '76 since the nation was even more backwards at the time. Obviously a black man would have had no chance at the nomination. 2004 would have been most interesting, Obama's natural charisma vs. Kerry, a white bland New Englander. I certainly couldn't see Obama winning Ohio in that climate, war time vs. a GOP incumbent with a 50/50 approval rating.

In '08 Obama is asked not to forfeit a considerable generic advantage. Frankly, we were rolling the never-never land dice with either a black or woman. Luckily the Republican nominee is remarkably weak and vulnerable.

by Gary Kilbride 2008-07-20 10:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Stronger Among White Voters than Gore or

Umm, not to rain on your parade, but this premise is flawed, insofar as it's measuring voters NOW (mid-July) vs. after the election.  Furthermore, it's measuring McCain's lead among DECIDED white voters.  The concern, of course, is that most of those undecided white voters, iirc, have historically gone Republican right before the election, prior to the last couple of presidential elections.

I understand that we all want Obama to win, but isn't it better to realistically assess his weaknesses with the electorate, in the hopes of getting him to chart a course that appeals to those segments, rather than try to read stuff into polls that may or may not be there?

I mean, whether or not the media has some larger agenda (I believe they do), it's pretty hard to argue that Obama is facing some issues with non-black working class voters.  Rather than just paper these over, I think he ought to be stressing more populist economic issues with these folks, so that it's not just the Michael Kinsley's and Cass Sunstein's of the world who believe that "Obama's policies are identical to Hillary's".  Yes, they may be on paper, but that's not what the average voter is hearing, and that, imo, explains, more than the race issue, why we're seeing that gap in Obama's appeal.

But what do I know?  I don't work for Brookings, I'm not a U.Chicago aficianado, and I'm not a hipster, so I guess by default I'm a bitter old woman.

by RedSox04 2008-07-20 02:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Stronger Among White Voters than Gore or

Of course, we don't know how Kerry and Gore were polling among whites in July either.

by elrod 2008-07-20 08:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Sure it is

Around this time in 2004, Kerry was trailing Bush among white voters by 10 points, as compared to Obama's current 9 points.

http://www.npr.org/news/specials/polls/j ul2004/jul04.pdf

This is DESPITE the fact that white voters, like all other voters, have experienced a sea change from identifying with George Bush and the GOP (remember, terrorism was still the top issue by far in July 2004), to abandoning George Bush's GOP.

So to recap, Obama's numbers among white voters in July 2008 mirror Kerry's numbers among white voters in July 2004, despite the fact that white voters in general have defected en masse from the GOP to "independent" or Democrat.

Lest we forgot, amid all the excitement and ecstasy of St. Obama's campaign to conquer Evil, John Kerry lost that election to George Bush in 2004.  So experiencing similar #s is probably not a great sign.

But there's nothing to see here!  Obama's doing great!  There's no such thing as lazy punditry, reporting, or blogging!

by RedSox04 2008-07-21 07:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Stronger Among White Voters

All these polls are meaningless.  They're just referendums on Bush.

Obama hasn't even begun to close the deal. That's why he's on the Grand Tour--to get instant photo-op credibility. We'll see if that's enough, but he'd better not screw up.  He doesn't have the credentials to make ANY mistakes.

by Upstate Dem 2008-07-20 03:15PM | 0 recs
This is a RACIST story

Personally, I'm outraged by the MSM coverage of this issue.  Last I knew EVERY VOTE in America counts the same, not matter what the race, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc. or the voter.  in fact, ANY CANDIDATE can win without getting a majority of the white vote--all that is required is a PLURALITY of all votes.  The premise of this story seems to be that an election is not legitimate unless the winning candidate wins a majority of the white voters.  It implicitly denigrates the the votes from non-white voters, and in that respect the coverage is subtly RACIST.  The big story is, and should continue to be, that Obama has the support of a majority of all voters.  The fact that he doesn't have a majority of white voters only matters if you some how think white voters are more important than everyone else.

by Alan 2008-07-20 05:35PM | 0 recs
Obama Stronger Among White Voters

I wonder what Jerome has to say about this?

by jlars 2008-07-21 03:38AM | 0 recs

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