Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Democrats underperforming with black voters

One of the things giving Democratic candidates across the country trouble this year that has perhaps not gotten as much attention as it should is that they are really under polling with black voters. It's a given that black turnout is going to be way down from its 2008 levels this year but more troublesome for Democratic candidates is that they are running well behind Barack Obama's approval numbers with African Americans in almost every key race we've polled over the last six weeks.

There's a couple ways to look at that. One is that polling frequently underestimates Democratic performance with black voters further out from an election and that 90% of them will vote Democratic as they usually do. If that's the case polls right now are underestimating the party's candidates across the board and Democrats won't do as poorly in November as the current conventional wisdom. The other way to look at it is that black voters, like other voters, are less enthused with the Democrats than they are in the average election cycle and will indeed support them at a lower rate than usual.

If I had to guess I'd say Democratic candidates will end up doing a lot better with black voters than they are currently, but that the level of support they receive will not quite be at its usual lofty levels. Democratic support from African Americans may more often this year end up in the 80% plus or minus 5 points range instead of the 90% plus or minus 5 points range.

Here's the data comparing Obama's approval with blacks to the support level of Democratic Senate and Gubernatorial candidates with them in states where the black population is at least 10%:


Obama Approval w/Blacks

Democrat w/Blacks (Dropoff)

Illinois Governor


Pat Quinn 41% (47)

Florida Senate


Kendrick Meek 48% (31)

Texas Governor


Bill White 62% (28)

Pennsylvania Governor


Dan Onorato 56% (24)

North Carolina Senate


Elaine Marshall 67% (20)

Florida Governor


Alex Sink 60% (19)

Illinois Senate


Alexi Giannoulias 69% (19)

Delaware Senate


Chris Coons 63% (19)

Michigan Governor


Virg Bernero 57% (17)

Pennsylvania Senate


Joe Sestak 64% (16)

Ohio Senate


Lee Fisher 68% (16)

Missouri Senate


Robin Carnahan 67% (11)

Ohio Governor


Ted Strickland 79% (5)

On average the Democratic nominees are running 21 points behind Obama's approval with black voters. Closing that gap is going to be key to winning these races or in some cases even making them competitive.


natthedem said...

This is the consequence of publicly dismissing the President's accomplishments--it's the same lukewarm support that we saw with Coakley in MA and Deeds in VA.

ARealSenator said...

Tom- What do you mean by "support level" for each Dem among blacks? I'm just curious as to what measure you used to determine this. Is it approval for the Dem or some sort of intent to vote measure? I assume approval but just wanted to make sure! Thanks.

Dustin Ingalls said...

It's their % of the black vote in the horse races.

wt said...

We owe it all to Michael Steele's fantastic work in the last two years, fo shizzle. :)

Anonymous said...


Unemployment rate among blacks is 16.3%. Unemployment rate among teens in black community is 45%. This election is going to have historical low turnout among blacks. That means, lot of races like NY senate, California senate will go to the republican column.

Anonymous said...

Wait. Isn't this normal in midterms? Did this happen in 2009 midterms in NJ/VA?

Dustin Ingalls said...

"That means, lot of races like NY senate, California senate will go to the republican column."

Unlikely either of those do. CA's moving back Boxer's way, and we'll see what we find if we do end up doing NY, but it's unlikely Gillibrand wins by less than 10 even in a depressed-Dem-turnout year.

ARealSenator said...

"This election is going to have historical low turnout among blacks. That means, lot of races like NY senate, California senate will go to the republican column."

I agree with Dustin that those two (esp. NY) seem in the bag. I think that low black turnout will hurt Dems a LOT more in races like PA-Sen, GA-Gov, OH-Gov/Sen, NC-Sen, KY-Sen, TX-Gov, MO-Sen, FL-Gov/Sen, MD-Gov just to name a few. These are all states with close races and moderate to high black populations. If African-Americans decide to stay home because of their disappoint with Obama (or for any other reason), it could cost the Dems more than a couple of seats.

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