Friday, October 10, 2008

White Voters in the South: Introduction

This is the introduction of our report on how shifts in the white vote relative to 2004 can explain most of Barack Obama's surprising success this year in the traditionally red southern states of Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia. You can read the whole thing here.

The conventional wisdom is that Barack Obama is doing so well this year due to the likelihood of increased turnout and support from black voters and young voters. Those things are certainly important, but a strong majority of Obama’s gains relative to Democratic performance in 2004, even in the South, can be attributed to increased support from white voters. Concern over the economy and the direction of the country over the last few years are outweighing any trepidation white voters, particularly conservative Democrats and independents, might have about choosing a black man.


thisniss said...

This is great - you're giving the South Now folks a run for their (public university) money here.

But I have to say, this makes me wish all the more that you would poll South Carolina (even though it lost in the voting)...

Thanks for the work you do, and the way you do it.

Tom Jensen said...

The South Now folks include my college roommate's dad and my senior thesis adviser so I think I just learned under the right people!

Thanks for your kind comments.

thisniss said...

I don't think I realized that you were in Chapel Hill (I guess because the PPP releases carry the Raleigh address).

I'm also in CH, and teach/study at UNC. funny.

Here's what I've been wondering lately: I know that most "outsiders" seem awed by the idea that NC might go blue for Obama. I'm not. There's actually a pretty strong Dem tradition in the state. While the last thirtyish years or so have seen Tar Heels voting Rep in Presidential elections, they've also seen mostly Dem Governors. And while Jesse Helms was the most prominent NC legislator on the national scene, the tradition here has been to split both the Senate and the House seats for most of the state's post-Reconstruction history (having two Rep Senators has been a post-Reagan anomaly, and generally only lasts one term for one of them).

So... that was a long way around to saying that I don't think it's strange at all for NC to vote in Obama, or Hagan, or even Obama and Hagan. But I don't think there's any precedent (at least in recent history) for a "trifecta" - a same-ticket Pres/Senate/Gov win.

And I wonder whether you think this can really happen? My gut - and I don't usually go the Colbert route, but I can't help feeling it here - says it's not going to happen. I feel like we're going to get Obama/Hagan/McCrory. I don't really think Obama/Dole/Purdue is possible, because I think McCain and Dole voters are too likely to be "straight ticket" voters.

But I think that the Independents and Conservative Dems that typically split tickets to vote Rep for Pres and Dem for Gov might just go the other way this time around (these are the same voters you're profiling in this report, I think). It will be interesting to see, though. And maybe the ballot design, which separates the Presidential race, but puts everything else on the bubble for "straight ticket," might help Purdue avoid the NC ticket-split curse?

Sorry for the long post, but I am curious about this peculiarity of NC voting behavior, and I have wondered if 2008 would be the year of the "straight ticket" or if we would just see a different split emerge. (For the record, I don't think there's anything "wrong" with ticket-splitting, but it almost seems to be a requirement for NC elections, at least based on historical precedent.)

Anonymous said...

Tom, thanks for your work.

I hope all the radical left folks that gave their early support for Obama understand that as much as their contribution toward putting Obama in the Whitehouse has been crucial in getting him this far, it will be middle of the road folks like me that will actually put him over the top.

That means he is at least as answerable to folks like me as the hard left, and folks like me will be watching carefully, as we are not wedded to anyone...

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