Post Election Analysis: Outside the South, Obama Gets Almost Half of the White Vote

In an earlier post, I said that Barack Obama might have gotten half of the white vote OUTSIDE the South. Based on my review of exit poll information, Obama missed the 50% mark by a whisker, getting 49.7% of the white vote outside the South-versus just 30.2% of the white vote in the South.

Nationwide, Obama got 43% of the white vote. By contrast, John Kerry got 41% of the white vote when he ran for president in 2004.

Thanks to some great work at the site Gene Expression in the post The Great White Sort, we have consolidated information from exit polls about the white vote in the presidential election. I used that to prepare two tables about the white vote for Obama.

TABLE 1, which is below, shows the white vote outside the South; TABLE 2 shows the white southern vote. Note the contrasts in the voting numbers.

Some comments on the white vote outside the South:

• Obama got the highest percentage of white votes in his native state of Hawaii. He got a whopping 70% of the white vote there.

• Obama got 50% or more of the white vote in the mega-states of California (52% of the white vote), New York (52%), and Illinois (51%).

• Obama’s worst performances were in Utah (31%), Alaska (32%), and Wyoming (32%). In Arizona, Obama got 40% of the white vote.

• Several states with small minority populations, all in New England and the Northwest, provided Obama with a very large share of the white vote: Vermont (68%), Maine (58%), Rhode Island (58%), Massachusetts (57%), New Hampshire (54%), Oregon (60%), Washington (59%).

• In New England, the MidAtlantic, the industrial Midwest, and the West Coast, Obama clearly won the majority of the white vote. He did worse in the Mountain and Midwest Plains states.

• I came to the 49.7% non-southern white vote number using exit poll data, and a weighted average based on the white population of the states. I also used a weighted average to get to the 30.2% number for the white southern vote.

Some comments on the white southern vote:

• Clearly, Obama did poorly among white southern voters. The difference in the voting numbers between the regions is stunning and remarkable.

• One key is that Obama did practically no campaigning or ad spending in the South after the primary elections, with the notable exceptions of Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia – states which Obama won thanks to a strong African American and Hispanic vote. The Obama campaign basically ceded those other southern states to McCain.

• The electorates in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi may have been especially polarized due to some state and local elections. In Alabama and Mississippi, black candidates were running for US Senate seats against Republican incumbents. In Louisiana, black candidates were running as Democrats or independents in three congressional districts. These races, plus the Obama run, may have… I’ll use the word “energized”… white Republican voters in those states to do straight ticket voting.

• White southerners are the strongest supporters of the Republican Party, so these results are not unprecedented. I have not looked at the 2004 presidential results, but Kerry may have done equally as bad, or worse, among white voters that year.

Source for two tables below: The Great White Sort post at the Gene Expressions site.

TABLE 1: White Vote for Obama Outside the South


TABLE 2: White Vote for Obama in the South


Note: Text versions of the two tables are here. The tables are presented as graphics in this post because WordPress had problems rendering the pages correctly in several web browsers when I included the information in HTML tables.

2 thoughts on “Post Election Analysis: Outside the South, Obama Gets Almost Half of the White Vote

  1. The only quibble I have with this, is that technically political scientists don’t consider Oklahoma and Kentucky to be Southern states. Those two didn’t secede, or did they have the long unbroken string of only voting Democratic in the manner of the Solid South from post-Reconstruction into the 1940s.

  2. I did struggle with where to place the border states. The Census Bureau includes the states of WV, KY, MD, DE, DC, and OK in its official list of southern states. So, for example Census Bureau reporting of election stats for the South includes all of these states.

    I was originally going to use the Census Bureau designations for this post, but that would have been ridiculous. It was an easy call to include MD, DE, and DC in the non-South list.

    I included KY and OK in the list of southern states because they are culturally conservative, and their white populations are demographically similar to those in southern states.

    If I had it to do all over again, I would have included WV in the list of southern states.

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