The Myth That “Blacks Only Vote Black”

I hear it a lot, from people who call-in to talk radio shows and some political pundits. It’s the belief that black voters “only vote black”: when given a choice between a white candidate and a black one, black voters almost always choose the black candidate.

But a review of election history shows this belief is a myth.

Consider, for example, the results of the 2006 elections. In a report titled “Blacks and the 2006 Midterm Elections”, by David A. Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the black vote for several races where blacks ran against whites is discussed:

Nationally, the black vote in U.S. House elections was 89 percent Democratic and 11 percent Republican…

Three prominent black Republicans lost their elections with varying degrees of black support.

GOP gubernatorial nominee Ken Blackwell in Ohio received 20 percent of the black vote, which is above the 10 percent national average for Republican candidates. However, previous white GOP candidates for governor and for U.S. Senator in Ohio have generally won larger shares of the black vote; when U.S. Senator George Voinovich was re-elected as governor of Ohio in 1994, he received 42 percent of the black vote.

Hall of Fame football star Lynn Swann was unable to effectively shift his talents from the gridiron to the political domain; he lost his race for governor of Pennsylvania, while receiving only 13 percent of the black vote.

Maryland Lieutenant Governor and GOP U.S. Senate candidate Michael Steele appears to have been the most successful Republican candidate courting black voters, receiving 25 percent of their votes in his losing effort.

It’s quite clear: for African Americans, when it comes to voting for Democrats and Republicans it’s not all black and white.

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