Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Black Vote in 2008: it's not all about quantity either

Last week we analyzed young voters in the swing states and found that even if there wasn't a big increase in turnout from the under 30 crowd this year, there would still be a big shift toward the Democrats because of changing preferences within that demographic.

I am much more confident that there will be a large increase in black turnout than I am that there will be a large increase in youth turnout, but the same truism applies to black voters: there will be a major movement toward the Democrats with them whether there's a large increase in turnout or not.

Take North Carolina as the biggest example. The 2004 exit poll showed John Kerry winning black voters in the state 85-15. A private poll we conducted statewide over the last few days showed Barack Obama winning them 95-5. That may not sound like a huge difference, but look at it this way. Kerry won them by 70. Obama's winning them by 90. Let's conservatively put black turnout at 20%. A 20% improvement with 20% of the population is worth an extra four points for Obama statewide. That's a huge deal.

It's a similar story in a couple other states that look like they'll be incredibly close. In our most recent Florida poll blacks who said they voted in 2004 went 87-13 for Kerry. Now they're 91-8 for Obama. That nine point increase with 13% of the likely voting population is worth a little more than a point statewide. Could make the difference in an incredibly tight race.

The same holds true in Indiana. Kerry won 83-17 with the African Americans we surveyed who voted last time. Obama leads 89-11. A 12 point shift with roughly 10% of the population is worth a little more than a point as well. Could swing it.

Blacks have certainly always been supportive of the Democratic Party, but not to the extent that they are this year. That's why analysis suggesting that Obama won't get that big a boost from black voters because Democrats always get a big boost from black voters is off the mark. Even small shifts could make a big difference in some of the closest states.


Tyler said...

Tom, Do you really believe McCain will get even 5% of the black vote in any state? He sure as hell isn't taking over 10% in Indiana. C'mon. Even Powell and Armstrong Williams are with Obama.

ABC/WaPo oversampled blacks in their Ohio poll to get a smaller MoE for race breakdowns and found Obama was winning 99% of them.

grinder said...

Tom, in 2004, 60% of blacks voted nationwide, according to the Census Bureau. In North Carolina, 65% of blacks voted in 2004.

What percentage of blacks do you think will vote this year?

Anonymous said...

AAAk. These numbers are wrong. Obama doesn't have a 20% improvement in black votes over Kerry. He has a 10% improvement. He's getting 95% of their votes, Kerry got 85%, so the difference is 10% of the 20% of the population that is black, for an absolute vote increase of 2%.

Please correct!!

Tom Jensen said...

There is a 20% improvement in the margin. 95-5 is up 90. 85-15 is up 70. A 20 point difference in the margin of 20% of the population is 4 points.

grinder said...

Tom, why won't you predict black turnout? No one's going to burn you in effigy if you're wrong. I'm just curious as to what you think.

Tom Jensen said...


I don't think about black turnout in terms of percentage that will turn out, but as the percentage of the electorate that they will comprise. I think they will account for 21 or 22% of the electorate.

grinder said...

Tom, isn't there a turnout estimate embedded in your expectation?

PerfectMomentProject said...

Get up, stand up! Love it.

My mamma voted for the first time since my dad died... and I'm so proud.

You go, mamma

Anonymous said...

Is the black vote mostly democratic because Obama is black, or are they truly voting on the issues? I find it increasingly disturbing that folks are voting for either candidate because of something the are or aren't and not whether or not the candidates match principals with their actual policies. I'm thinking that most black voters are voting for Obama because of his color, but I hear nobody commenting on it and surely nobody concerned about it.

Anonymous said...

Many people think this. Nobody has commented on it because they would be called a racist if they did. I think the black population as a whole, is the most racist group in this country. I can't spend a day around my black friends without hearing some form of "the white man..." or "black man..." My non-black friends almost never mention a person's race. The racism in this country has reversed. And everyone's too afraid to say it. All I can say is now that there is a black man in the oval office, I don't want to hear another black person say "the white man" is holding down the black population. Will the news media tell us what percentage of the black vote went to Obama? I believe many black people voted Obama because of his race. I find it very hard to believe that the country as a whole voted 47% 53%, and almost all the black population voted Obama for his policies.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention, there were black voters who turned out, who would have never turned out if Obama hadn't been running.
I am anxious to see the percentage increase in the black vote overall, supporting Obama or not since the 04' election.
I can think of, personally, many many black folk who were asked in 04' - who are you voting for? To which the response was "No One" - Yet, now in 08', now that a black man has run and been elected, you have the very same who refused to vote in 04', jumping around shouting praise for Obama. Why?
The answer is obvious isn't it?
I am not saying McCain lost because of this, I am, however, saying that many of the votes who came in yesterday wouldn't have come in if it had been two white candidates.

Anonymous said...


At least 56 percent of the black population is in the south. According to your premise Obama should have received more electoral votes from the southern states than he did. What's up?

Anonymous said...

how do you know that black voters didn't vote for the white half of Barack Obama?
He's as much WHITE as he is BLACK.
shucks, I am so sick of the discussion that blacks voted soley because Barack is black. How insulting! do people think that?
but even so, if I were black, and had never voted, you'd better bet i'd be excited about Barack Obama. even if I wasn't completely up on all that he stood for. I would probably think that he'd be more likely to be sympathetic or open to my issues.. Rich Republicans vote for the candidate whom they feel would most represent THEM, don't they????

Anonymous said...

The blacks voted for Obama because he was black. The percentage would not be as high as they are under normal situation. Many voters said so in interviews. What do you think the reaction would be if I said I voted for McCain because he was white.

Anonymous said...

This is true. On CNN they showed a poll stating that 98% of black voters voted based on race. (Either for Obama because he's black, or McCain because he's white) Only 3o some percent of white voters said they voted based on race. (again, voted for Obama because he's black, or McCain because he's white) It's kind of sad, I know I personally would never vote for someone just because of their race.

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