The impact of race and gender revisited

This is a follow up to a previous diary where I had started to look at the impact of race and gender on selected primaries after West Virginia. The premise is that one can take the data from exit polls and estimate the percentage of voters that used race and gender in their voting decisions. Most exit polls ask if race or gender was important in deciding who you voted for. By looking at how people who answered "yes" to these questions, one can determine their impact on the outcome.

More in the extended entry.

To do this, we have to make an assumption. Someone who said that gender was important and voted for Clinton would be considered to have had a positive gender influence on their vote. Likewise, if that person voted for Obama they would be considered to have had a negative gender influence. One can make the same assumption for race. That is, if race was important and they voted for Obama, that was a positive racial influence. If they voted for Clinton, that was a negative influence. This isn't to say that voters that exhibited negative gender or racial influences were necessarily sexist or racist, just that it impacted their vote.

Unfortunately, no exit polls were conducted for almost all of the caucus states. (Iowa and Nevada were exceptions.) Some of the exit polls didn't ask questions on gender and race (Nevada, Florida, Maryland and Virginia.) Finally, I didn't include Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina since Edwards was still a viable candidate at that point and introducing a third person into the picture made the calculations more difficult. That left me with 29 states with valid exit poll data.

What did the data show?

First, there was a lot of variability in the data. Positive gender influences ranged from 7.6% to 20.3% (i.e., people voted for Clinton because of her gender). Negative gender influences ranged from -3.0% to -19.3% (i.e., the opposite, people didn't vote for Clinton because of her gender). Positive race influences ranged from 2.6% to 19.2%. Negative race influences ranged from -4.7% to -18.0%.

Second, one can calculate a "net" influence by looking at the difference between the two numbers for each state. A positive "net" number would indicate that gender or race helped the candidate whereas a negative "net" number would show the opposite. Net gender numbers ranged from -11.2% to +15.5%. Net race numbers ranged from -15.4% to +10.4%.

Third, one can weight the results based on the number of pledged delegates allocated to each state to obtain an overall number that summarizes the impact of gender and race on the primary. (I used pledged delegates for the weighting since that had a direct impact on who won the race.) 13.1% of the weighted voters voted "for" Clinton because of her gender and 7.3% voted "against" her. 8.7% of the weighted voters voted "for" Obama because of his race and 9.3% voted "against" him. Clinton's net impact was +5.8% and Obama's net was -0.5%.

Based on the above, one could draw two conclusions. Unfortunately, there's a significant fraction of the population (slightly less than 10% but it varies from state to state) that appear to have a problem with either a woman or African-American running for President. Second, it appears that Clinton benefited more (or was harmed less) from her gender than Obama was from his race.

Tags: clinton, gender, obama, race (all tags)

Comments

19 Comments

This only makes sense...

To do this, we have to make an assumption. Someone who said that gender was important and voted for Clinton would be considered to have had a positive gender influence on their vote. Likewise, if that person voted for Obama they would be considered to have had a negative gender influence. One can make the same assumption for race. That is, if race was important and they voted for Obama, that was a positive racial influence. If they voted for Clinton, that was a negative influence. This isn't to say that voters that exhibited negative gender or racial influences were necessarily sexist or racist, just that it impacted their vote.

...if you make unwarranted assumptions about peoples' motives.  

If someone says that race was an important factor, and they voted for Clinton, that doesn't tell us whether race was a negative or positive influence.  It only tells us that race was an important factor for that individual, whether it was an anti-black, anti-white, pro-black, pro-white attitude.

Similarly, when it comes to gender, I don't understand how you define gender as a negative or positive influence here.  Am I missing something or do you not understand these concepts?

by juliewolf 2008-06-02 04:45PM | 0 recs
Re: This only makes sense...

Um, what's the difference between anti-black and pro-white?

by batgirl71 2008-06-02 04:57PM | 0 recs
Re: This only makes sense...

Um, what's the difference between anti-black and pro-white?
Depends on point of view.  If someone's pro-white, it probably means they view the state of being white as somehow better than most other alternatives.  If someone's anti-black, they probably view the state of being black as worse than (or equally worse with) all other alternatives.  

In practice, I think it only matters to Asians :)

--julie

by juliewolf 2008-06-02 05:25PM | 0 recs
Re: This only makes sense...

In that sense, what is the difference between anti-white and pro-black?

Race and gender are so complicated and there are so many factors involved in a voter's decision that I don't think it's possible to infer anti-this race or pro-that gender from these polling questions.

by psychodrew 2008-06-02 05:34PM | 0 recs
Re: This only makes sense...

In a binary election, with candidates of differing gender and race, and with fairly well defined attitudes as to what would be considered a positive influence, it's not that hard. Let's take gender for example. Most people would assume that if gender was important to a voter and they didn't vote for Clinton, then they didn't vote for her because she was a woman. (Or they voted for Obama since he was a man, but to me they're the same response.) As such, it would be consider a negative influence.

Unless you consider being a man to be a disadvantage in an election and if that's the case, then yes, I have the positive and negative responses flipped. However, I'll guess that most people don't feel that is a typical response for the American electorate.

by kjblair2 2008-06-02 05:34PM | 0 recs
Okay, now I get it

you don't know what you're talking about:

Most people would assume that if gender was important to a voter and they didn't vote for Clinton, then they didn't vote for her because she was a woman.

I don't really care what most people would assume, because most people don't understand this sort of thing.  

Let's take the following scenario:

You have someone who lists both gender and race as important factors in how they made their choice, and this person votes for Clinton.  

You don't have any way of knowing which, if either, factor was the deciding factor.  A black woman who choses Clinton over Obama and indicates both race and gender to be important factors might be choosing Clinton due to gender demographics.  Or she might be choosing her because she doesn't think the country will allow a black man to become president.  Or she might be choosing her because even though both race and gender are important, other factors are more important to her.  So she votes not based on two important factors but a third, more important one.

This sort of research is subtle and complicated and the sort of surface rendering you get from the media is often poorly handled and sloppy, so it's entirely understandable that the dynamics can get lost on people who aren't extremely familiar with how this stuff works.

by juliewolf 2008-06-02 05:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Okay, now I get it

And that's why I was careful not to say that I was trying to identify if race or gender was the deciding factor. Only if they influenced their vote and how it might have impacted the result. But let's be clear here, if someone felt gender was important in their voting decision, and they didn't vote for Clinton, I'd certainly say that was a negative influence on whether she won or lost.

In your example, gender was a postive influence for Clinton and race a negative influence for Obama. There's nothing here that would render the analysis incorrect.

by kjblair2 2008-06-02 06:05PM | 0 recs
That's the thing

we really only have anecdotal evidence for any of this stuff.  It's pretty impossible to quantify it because each individual is a different point on a nearly infinite continuum when you try to nail down what our motivations are.

by Sun Dog 2008-06-02 04:48PM | 0 recs
Is that tr abuse or isn't it?

by Sun Dog 2008-06-02 08:03PM | 0 recs
Re: The impact of race and gender revisited

When the question was asked about race was the  question put to black voters if race was a factor in their choice or only white voters?

If not Obama's net -0.5 is not valid in my opinion.

by feelfree 2008-06-02 04:51PM | 0 recs
Re: The impact of race and gender revisited

Exit polls are given to everyone.

by Firewall 2008-06-02 04:56PM | 0 recs
Re: The impact of race and gender revisited

Okay, that may be true. I could be wrong but I have noticed they only report how white voters voted if race is a factor and not black voters.

by feelfree 2008-06-02 05:12PM | 0 recs
Re: The impact of race and gender revisited

They ask the question of everyone.

by kjblair2 2008-06-02 05:24PM | 0 recs
Methodology question.

Why did you use pledged delegates?  Why not use raw votes?  Pledged delegates reflect previous turnout and raw delegates pledge actual turnout.  Using pledged delegates would also cause the caucus states to have outsized value as the turnout is smaller.

Wouldn't using total votes be a more accurate reflection of the voters?

by psychodrew 2008-06-02 05:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Methodology question.

Raw votes, however, exclude caucus states which do not report on raw vote numbers.  Using total votes will cause the caucus states to have no value.

In the meantime, using delegates is more reflective of how we conduct our elections on a national level.  if 3 people show up to vote in Vermont, the winner still gets all three of Vermont's electoral votes, even if 60k people show up to vote in New Hampshire, handing the winner of that election all four of the New Hampshire electoral votes.  Just because there's one electoral vote per person in the Vermont scenario and one per 15k people in the NH one doesn't make the electoral college change its math for you.

by juliewolf 2008-06-02 05:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Methodology question.

Since almost all of the caucuses didn't have exit polls and those that did (Iowa and Nevada) had confounding factors, the analysis really only looked at primary states. I used pledged delegates as opposed to raw vote totals since, for better or worse, we use delegates to select our nominee and I wanted to see the impact on the outcome. Using raw vote totals would tend to give more weight to those states that had higher turnouts. (Indiana for example.)

by kjblair2 2008-06-02 05:55PM | 0 recs
Follow-up

Didn't the caucus states have entrance polls?  And what were the confounding facts in IA and NV?

Sorry for all the questions.  I love talking about this stuff.

by psychodrew 2008-06-02 06:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Follow-up

I used CNN and they didn't report entrance or exit polls for most of the caucus states. The confounding factor for Nevada was that the exit poll contained a limited number of questions that really didn't touch on race or gender. (There were 3 primary states that also used different race and gender questions. Not sure why they weren't consistent throughout the primaries.)

Edwards received a significant number of votes in Iowa and the analysis is more straightforward if you have binary choices. (Clinton is white and female, Obama is black and male. Edwards sorts of messes things up.) And as you can see from some of the comments upthread, some people believe I assumed too much in my analysis as it is.

by kjblair2 2008-06-02 06:24PM | 0 recs
Your concept of "net" gain or loss

I don't think most people have a problem with voters who support candidates on the basis of race or gender ("he or she is like me").  Voters aren't robots.  While such voters are often portrayed as superficial, there are powerful substantive reasons why someone might want to do this.  

Who doubts that Hillary Clinton, for instance, would have more sensitivity to gender issues just because of her experience of being a woman?  Or that Obama probably has a deeper understanding of race as it's experienced by people on the darker side of the "color line" just because that's where he's lived his life?  These sorts of issues aren't trivial.

The "antis", though, are a whole different story.  Here, we are often talking about voters who are behaving badly (though that's not a simple subject either).

My hunch, btw, is that Clinton's gender favored her in this race (and your data seems to agree with that) simply because a disproportionate number of Dems are women, but in the general this would be a whole different story (because the national electorate, while having a slightly larger number of women, doesn't have anything like the same skew).  We might never find out, but in the general I was totally expecting that a large number of men (Dems, GOPers, and Indies) would have bolted for McCain, and the election would have turned on whether Clinton could make this up by women crossing over.

Obama, on the other hand, got hurt in this contest by race, and he's going to get hurt by this in the general, but it's possible the effect will only equal, or possibly be less than, what the negative gender effect might have been had Clinton been the nominee (and, really, we just don't know).

While I understand the disappointment many Clinton supporters feel at the prospect that she'll be out of the race soon, think those who are voting for McCain on grounds of gender-based anger are, well, insane.  Why?  Because the presidential archetype, can we agree, is white, male, and protestant, and any variation in this stereotype can only help those future candidates who can't check all of these boxes.  It's always been this way.

But that's not the sort of argument which ever persuades anybody.  And so we have the prospect of something truly weird happening: McCain winning in November off of the votes of white female Democrats; Clinton possibly coming back in 2012, where her biggest obstacle might be current Obama supporters thinking it's payback time; and the outcome being a string of white male protestant presidents well into the future.

by IncognitoErgoSum 2008-06-02 06:59PM | 0 recs

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