Friday, October 10, 2008

White Voters in the South: Virginia

This is the Virginia section 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 (with all the data included in chart form) here.
George W. Bush won Virginia by eight points in 2004. PPP’s most recent poll of the state shows that result flipped, with Barack Obama leading by eight points.

In 2004 black turnout accounted for about 17%* of the electorate in Virginia. John Kerry won those voters 87-12. That gave him about a 13 point lead among black voters as part of the overall vote.

This year we estimate that black turnout in the state will be equal to their proportion of the state’s total population, or 20%. Obama currently has an 88-11 advantage with those voters. With the projected increase in black voting relative to 2004 that would give him a 15 point lead among blacks as part of the overall vote, or in other words just a two point gain compared to 2004.

Obama is looking at major gains among white voters though. In 2004 Bush beat John Kerry among them by a margin of roughly 65-35 in the state, with the white vote accounting for about 76% of the electorate. That gave Bush a 23 point lead among white voters as part of the overall vote, offsetting Kerry’s 13% advantage with black voters and 2% margin with other non-white voters to give him an overall victory margin of 8% in the state.

PPP’s most recent poll of Virginia shows Obama pulling within 52-42 of John McCain among white voters. We estimate whites will make up 73% of the electorate this year because of the increase in black turnout, which means McCain has a 7 point advantage among white voters as part of the overall vote.

That means Obama’s increased standing in Virginia compared to John Kerry is predicated on about a 16 point gain among white voters, as opposed to just about a 2% gain with blacks.

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