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by inoljt

The Winds of Change in Georgia, Part 2

12:26 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

This is the second part of two posts describing a fascinating election in Georgia: the 1980 Senate election, in which Republican Mack Mattingly beat scandal-ridden Democrat Herman Talmadge. This was the first time that a Republican Senator was elected in Georgia for more than a century. Even more interestingly, the areas that the Democratic candidate won tend to vote strongly Republican today, and vice versa.

The Black Vote in 1980

The previous post ended by bringing up the role of the black vote:

In 1980 Republican candidate Mack Mattingly won areas with substantial black populations, most notably the heavily-black city of Atlanta itself. Surely Democratic Senator Herman Talmadge’s dedicated support to segregation wouldn’t have appealed to the black vote.

So did Republicans win the black vote in this 1980 election?

Well, let’s take a look at the 1980 Georgia Senate election:

This map puts the election in more detail than the maps in the previous post. It’s pretty difficult to determine how any group voted knowing only whether a party won or lost a county, but not by how much they lost the county. This map is more useful.

Here we see a Georgia in which Republican strength in the cities just barely overwhelms Democratic rural strength. Again, this runs strongly against the usual pattern today, in which Democratic urban strength is pitted against Republican rural strength. (For instances of the latter, see these elections in Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia).

Now let’s take a look at the black population of Georgia:

Source: The Social Explorer

This is a map of the black population in each county of Georgia, according to the 1980 Census. It’s taken from The Social Explorer.

There doesn’t seem to be much of a link. The rural black areas vote strongly Democratic, and so do the rural white areas. Urban black Atlanta votes strongly Republican, and so do the urban non-black parts of Atlanta.

This is actually somewhat disappointing; I expected a stronger correlation before making these maps.

The Black Vote in 2008

Here, for instance, is a map in which the black vote certainly does have a relationship with how well one party does:

This was the 2008 presidential election. Note how the map is almost the opposite of the 1980 Senate election.

Even though the 1980 Census data is more than a generation out-of-date, there’s still a very strong link between how black a county was in 1980 and the percent of the vote the Democratic candidate won in 2008. The discrepancies can largely be explained by demographic changes (for instance, Clayton County – the county directly below the dot indicating Atlanta – voted strongly for Obama not because white people there really really liked him, but because it has become 65% black today).


There are several possibilities why we don’t see any such correlation in the 1980 Senate election. Perhaps black turn-out was still very far below white turn-out in 1980 (only 15 years after the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act). If this is true, then the black vote would have been overwhelmed by higher turn-out amongst whites.

It’s also possible that running a regression analysis could provide more insight into the black vote. The results, however, would probably differ greatly one whether one adjusts for the amount of people living in each county. And they might not be statistically significant.

All in all, it is possible to tell how blacks voted in 1980; one just needs more detailed data. You need to look at precinct data (data detailed enough to show how groups of several hundred people voted) and then look at how the precincts with the highest black percentages voted. This, unfortunately, is data that is extremely difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to gather.

So did Republicans win the black vote in this 1980 election?

Until we have more information, the answer is: we don’t know.


by inoljt

“They Vote Against Their Own Self-Interest”

7:20 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

There’s a common refrain among both parties of the American political system. Members of Group X always vote for the opposing party. But it doesn’t make sense for Group X to be so antagonistic against us. Our party’s policies are actually much more in line with what members of Group X believe. They’re voting against their own self-interest. If only members of Group X woke up and saw the light, they’d be voting for our party all the time.

For Democrats, Group X is generally the working class white southern vote. Poor white southerners, the line goes, benefit much more from Democratic economic policies than from Republican economic policies. Yet they vote strongly Republican. Why, Democrats lament, do poor white southerners continually vote against their own self-interest? If only they realized this, they would start voting Democratic.

For Republicans, Group X is the black (and, to a lesser extent, Latino) vote. I recently listened to a conservative radio host talk extensively about how it just didn’t make sense for the African-American community to be so Democratic. Black churches, for instance, are bastions of Democratic strength, yet their social policies are much more in line with Republican social policies than Democratic ones. African-Americans and Hispanics in general hold very socially conservative views on things such as religion and gay marriage; it doesn’t make sense for them to be voting Democratic when those beliefs are so opposed to Democratic ones. I’m not asking for much, the radio host said, just 30% of the black vote. It’s ridiculous to be losing African-Americans 10-to-90.

In my opinion, these arguments are less valid than they seem. Both poor white southerners and African-Americans have very good reasons to vote for the parties that they do. In both the Democratic and Republican Party there are a subtle (and sometimes not very subtle) currents of hostility towards white southerners and African-Americans, respectively. You don’t have to be in politics very long to be aware of this. White southerners and African-Americans will naturally be reluctant to vote for a party whose fundamental narrative, in many ways, paints themselves as antagonists. Voters aren’t stupid, unlike what many people say.


by inoljt

The Black Split With the Republican Party, From Ebony’s Perspective

3:56 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

The previous post analyzed the magazine Ebony during the Civil Rights era. The post utilized the magazine’s archive, which can be found here.

The archive also provides a fascinating picture into the gradual alienation of the black community from the Republican Party. In the early 1960s Republicans were still very competitive with the black vote. Indeed, the April 1962 issue of Ebony has a story titled “What Republicans Must Do to Regain the Negro Vote” in which Ebony interviews a prominent Republican. The interviewee? Richard Nixon!

Mr. Nixon is still visibly reliving his defeat to President John F. Kennedy, when Mr. Kennedy’s phone call in support of the jailed Martin Luther King Jr. swung the black vote Democratic. Mr. Nixon blames himself for losing the black vote; “It was my fault for not selling myself in such a close election.” He also argues strongly against the views of Senator Barry Goldwater, who wishes not to pursue the black vote, stating:

If Goldwater wins the fight, our party will eventually become the first major all-white political party. And that isn’t good. That would be a violation of GOP principles.

What irony!

By 1964, the Republican Party and the black community have visibly moved apart. A March 1964 article is titled “How Republican Leaders View the Negro.” In it, only three of eight prominent Republicans are willing to respond to a questionnaire by Ebony. Mr. Nixon is not amongst them. In February 1967, Ebony writes, “At no time since the Republican Party ended slavery has it been so flagrantly anti-Negro.”

When Mr. Nixon is elected president, Ebony’s mood has hardened even further. It writes, in January 1969, “Outside of the familiar breed of white segregationists and supremacists, few men in American public life have incurred the wrath of blacks as Nixon.” The magazine accuses Mr. Nixon of abandoning blacks during the 1960 presidential election. Interestingly, the magazine is a lot more upset about the 1960 election in 1969 than it actually was during 1960.

By then the rupture with the Republican Party is complete. Ebony’s 1969 article about Richard Nixon could, with different details and names, be written about any Republican politician in 2011. In less than a decade the Republican Party has gone from a legitimate contender of the black vote to the party of white people, in the eyes of the black community. It is a shocking and sad development.


by inoljt

Ebony Magazine During the Civil Rights Era

10:34 am in Uncategorized by inoljt

In 2008 Ebony magazine made available much of its archive, dating all the way back to 1959. The archive can be read here, and it offers a fascinating perspective on America during the past. Most magazines write from the normal perspective of the white community. Ebony, however, writes from the quite different lens of black America. This perspective is quite interesting from the viewpoint of the modern reader.

All in all, most of the Civil Rights era passes quite unremarkably. It is quite hum-drum, as if nobody realizes what an enormous change is happening. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter From Birmingham Jail is interspersed with articles such as “Should a Machine Select Your Mate?”

Some events are mentioned. The March on Washington gets front-page coverage on the November 1963 issue. On the other hand, the momentous passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act go entirely unwritten about.

It is really after the Civil Rights era that things seem to change. The tone, for instance, undergoes a subtle but clear shift. Before the Civil Rights era, Ebony’s tone was perhaps best described as aspirational and optimistic. It was aspirational in the sense that the magazine seemed to be aspiring to be white. The female models, for instance, looked like exact replicas of white ’60s models, with straight hair and skin so light many could have passed for white (to be fair, both trends are still occurring today). The tone was also optimistic and hopeful. There might be much discrimination against “Negroes,” as the magazine put it, but things would definitely get better.

After Civil Rights, however, this optimism and aspiration disappears – even as things do get very much better. The tone of Ebony shifts, to something that is more familiar to those acquainted with racial politics. It takes on a harder, more cynical edge. Ebony becomes less hopeful and optimistic, more demanding and proud. One example of this pride occurs in June 1966, when Ebony debuts a women wearing natural, non-straightened black hair. The title is “The Natural Look.”

The conversation becomes a lot more familiar in other ways. Before and during the Civil Rights era Ebony uses the word “Negro” in place of where the word “black” would be used today. Then one issue, in the summer of 1968, Ebony simply drops “Negro” and starts using “black.” In September 1966, another familiar term appears: “Black Power”. The next year, in October 1967, Ebony addresses the decaying inner city. A year later, Ebony starts using the term “ghetto.”

Fundamentally, by the late 1960s the voice of black America has essentially become the same as it is today. Ebony’s voice in 1960 is almost unrecognizable compared to its voice in 2011, but its tone in 1970 is pretty much the same as its tone today. The irony is that while in 1950s blacks occupied a far worse position in American society, their voice was a lot lighter and more optimistic. By 1970 the status of African-Americans had improved tremendously. Yet one could be forgiven for thinking, in comparing Ebony’s tone in 1958 to its tone in 1968, that blacks were worse off in 1968 than they were in 1958.


by inoljt

The 2010 Midterm Elections, and the Black Shift Republican

4:07 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

Republican strategists often refer to the African-American community with a tone of hopelessness. Blacks are just so, so amazingly Democratic. No matter what the Republican Party does, these people think, the black vote inevitably ends up giving Democrats more than 85% of the vote. Even when the Republican candidate himself or herself is African-American, the black community still votes around 80% Democratic. This hopelessness is especially pronounced in the age of Obama, an individual to whom the black vote is uniquely loyal (as the first black president).

It is true that blacks vote very, very Democratic. In other ways, however, they behave quite like other groups of voters.

Take the 2010 midterm elections. These were a disaster for the Democratic Party, which took a pounding and lost the House of Representatives. The Democratic share of the vote plummeted, hurt by a weak economy and unpopular policies:

Democratic Republican Margin
2010 House Elections 44.8 51.6 6.8
2008 House Elections 53.2 42.5 10.7
2008 Presidential Election 52.87 45.6 7.27

In this rightward shift, everybody voted more Republican than in 2008. Every region of the country was redder. Women voted more Republican. Men did. Republicans did. Independents did, especially so. Democrats did too. With regards to ethnicity, Americans of every race and nationality voted more Republican. Hispanics did. Asians did. Native Americans and Pacific Islanders did. Whites did, very much so.

So did blacks:

Democratic Republican Margin
Black Vote: 2010 House Elections 89 9 80
Black Vote: 2008 House Elections 93 5 88
Black Vote: 2008 Presidential Election 95 4 91

Now, this table obviously shows that blacks still voted very Democratic in 2010. The point, however, is that – like everybody else – blacks also shifted Republican in 2010. The presence of President Barack Obama did not magically prevent Republicans from gaining black votes in 2010.

It is true that Republicans gained less amongst blacks:

2010 Republican Improvement From…
2008 House Elections 2008 Presidential Election
Overall 17.5 14.1
Blacks 8 11

Partly this is because blacks are a highly Democratic constituency. When the nation as a whole shifts Republican, highly loyal Democrats move less rightwards than the average. Partly this is due to Mr. Obama’s popularity amongst blacks.

Without this rightward shift in the black vote, however Republican victories in Illinois or Pennsylvania’s senate races would have been a lot closer – or turned into losses altogether. The same holds true for close Republican victories in the Ohio and Florida gubernatorial elections. Democrats would probably hold a handful more House seats, from North Carolina’s 2nd congressional district to Alabama’s 2nd congressional district.

If Republicans had done the same amongst blacks as they did in 2008, Democrats would have won a number of races they lost. The Republican gain amongst blacks played an important part of their overall national victory.


by inoljt

Packing Blacks

9:12 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

This is the first part in a series of posts examining how to create super-packed congressional districts of one race. The other posts in this series pack Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, and whites.

Packing Blacks

In drawing the districts that will elect America’s congressman and state legislatures, race is of paramount importance. This is because of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), a complicated piece of legislation which regulates how race is used in congressional redistricting. The VRA is supreme to almost every other consideration in redistricting, except the stipulation that districts must have equal population.

The VRA prohibits packing minorities. For instance, an 80% black district that weaves through unrelated areas, taking in only the black-majority parts, is illegal.

Let’s pretend, however, that the VRA doesn’t exist. For curiosity’s sake, what is the blackest district you can possibly make in the United States?

This post will answer that question, using Dave’s Redistricting Application – a tool which allows anybody to create congressional districts.

It is both easy and hard to create an extremely black congressional district.

The easy part is that blacks live in extremely segregated areas. In a completely integrated society, every congressional district would be no more and no less than 12.6% black, since blacks compose 12.6% of America’s population.

In reality, however, segregation has left many areas more than 90% black, while their surroundings are 90% white. Take Cleveland:

It is relatively easy to pack all these blacks into a cohesive unit:

It took less than five minutes to draw this. This district is 90.9% black.

Here, however, comes the hard part. Notice how there are only 247,777 residents of the district. Each congressional district in Ohio needs to have 721,032 residents. To achieve adequate population, the district must add more than 470,000 people. As the picture makes obvious, adding people from outside the black parts of Cleveland will heavily dilute the district’s black percentage (it may end up less than 50% black as one begins adding 95% white precincts).

The solution is to run the district to other highly segregated black parts of Ohio. Unfortunately, doing this involves going through 95% white areas. This will inevitably dilute the black percentage.

One encounters similar troubles with most inner-city areas that have a substantial black population. Once one runs out of 90% black precincts, the black population dwindles fast.

Concentrated populations of blacks are, of course, not just found in inner-cities. A number of Southern states – places like Mississippi – contain substantial black populations. Unfortunately for a mapmaker, however, many Southern blacks live in rural areas – and these rural areas are much more integrated than places like Cleveland. In Alabama, for instance, the most black a district can get is about 81.5%. In many cities, moreover, the black population is dwindling; in Los Angeles nowadays it is simply impossible to create even a black-majority congressional district.

If only there existed an extremely segregated city like Cleveland, except with enough 95% black precincts to fill an entire congressional district…

Well, welcome to Chicago:

In Chicago it is (barely) possible to create a congressional district composed of only the dark blue precincts in this picture:

For a clearer view, here is the northern part of the district:

Here is the southern part:

This monstrosity is a 94.8% black congressional district, linking together almost all the blacks in Chicago. It is possible to get a ~93% black district without linking the South Side to the Lawndale area; one would simply start adding more 70 and 80% precincts in the suburbs south of Chicago. However, linking the two together makes the district slightly blacker.

It is an interesting exercise to guess how this district voted in 2008. Nationally blacks gave 95% of the vote to President Barack Obama. However, blacks tend to be more Democratic in more segregated areas, so the black vote was probably more Democratic in Chicago than nationwide. Moreover, the non-black vote also tends to be extremely Democratic in inner-cities; in Washington, for instance, 86% of whites supported the president. Finally, given Mr. Obama’s roots in Chicago, individuals of all races would be even more likely to vote for him than otherwise would be the case.

My guess is that this district voted 99% Democratic in 2008. (Edit: Presidential data for Illinois has been released, and it turns out that my guess was right; it voted 98.8% Democratic.)

Blacks, of course, are not the only race which can be packed into congressional districts like these. It is possible – and even easier – to do the same with Hispanics. The next post will examine how to pack Hispanics.

by inoljt

California’s Unusual Black Vote in 2010

1:59 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

The black vote is one of the most reliably Democratic constituencies out there. Blacks commonly give Democratic candidates more than 90% of the vote; Democratic presidential candidates in 2000, 2004, and 2008 won 90%, 89%, and 95% of blacks respectively.

Blacks were as reliably Democratic as ever in the 2010 midterm elections. The black vote undoubtedly saved many a Democrat from defeat. Exit polls indicate that 89% of blacks nationwide voted for a Democratic congressman.

In California, however, blacks seemed to have been quite a bit more Republican than this. The table below indicates the black support, according to exit polls, gained by Republicans in California’s statewide races:

2010 Black Vote Democratic Republican
Nationwide (House of Representatives) 89 9
California Governor 77 21
California Senator 80 17

This can be graphed as below:

Now, a word of caution before analyzing these results: exit polls are notoriously unreliable. It is entirely possible that a bad sample skewed these results (although since it appears that the polls for the two California races were separately done, this may be less likely).
Read the rest of this entry →

by inoljt

Examining Turn-Out by Race in California

9:02 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

California constitutes one of the most diverse states in the United States. Here is how the Census estimates its population composition:

California’s Ethnic Composition
Asian 12.7%
Black 6.6%
Hispanic 37.0%
Mixed 2.6%
Native American 1.2%
Pacific Islander 0.4%
White 41.7%

(Note that the numbers do not add up to 100, due to the way the Census tracks ethnicity.)

The people who actually vote in California, however, do not reflect this composition. California’s electorate in the 2008 presidential election is quite different from its actual ethnic composition:

2008 Electorate: Exit Polls
Asian 6%
Black 10%
Hispanic 18%
Other 3%
White 63%

These numbers were taken from exit polls – and one should be warned that exit polls are very, very inaccurate. The numbers above should not be taken for the truth, but rather as a rough approximation of it.

Nevertheless, one can take something out of the exit polls: blacks and whites punched far above their demographic weight, while Asians and Hispanics punched far below theirs. This pattern isn’t so much a racial one as much as an immigrant versus non-immigrant one.

Since blacks and whites are mainly non-immigrant communities, they vote more often than immigrant communities. Blacks and whites thus are overrepresented in the electorate. There was little racial divide between black and white turn-out, which is quite remarkable, given the lower socioeconomic status of blacks. All in all the percentage of California’s 2008 electorate was about 50% more black and white than California’s overall population.

Hispanics are the ones hurt most by this. The difference between the Hispanic portion of the electorate and the Hispanic portion of the overall population is quite striking: the electorate is just half as Hispanic as the population. Most of this is attributable to the legal status of many Hispanic immigrants, the relative youth of the Hispanic population, the lower socioeconomic status of Hispanics, and the immigrant-heavy nature Hispanic community (this is different from the first factor in that immigrants are inherently less likely to vote even if they are citizens).

It is not Hispanics, however, who are least likely to vote: it is Asians. There are several similarities and differences between the two groups. Unlike Hispanics, the Asian population is not skewed downwards, and Asians generally have a high socioeconomic status. On the other hand, Asians are much more of an immigrant community than Hispanics: a remarkable four out of five adult Asians in California constituted immigrants, according to a 2002 study. Only 59% of adult Asians were citizens (who can vote), according to the study.

The low voting rates of Hispanics and Asians naturally reduce their political power. Hispanics, at around one-fifth of the California electorate, are influential – but imagine how much more influential the Hispanic vote would be if they voted their numbers. As for Asians, their low turn-out makes their community almost a non-factor in California politics.

This will probably change, of course. A century ago one could have written the exact same words about another immigrant-heavy group that did not vote: Irish-Americans.


by inoljt

The White Vote in Washington D.C.

8:12 am in Elections, Politics by inoljt

When Republicans attack American liberalism, they prefer to use San Francisco as a punching bag. Indeed, San Francisco does constitute quite a liberal city; in the 2008 presidential election, 84.0% of the good folk of San Francisco preferred Democratic candidate Barack Obama over Senator John McCain.

San Francisco was far from the most Democratic-voting city in 2008, however. Mr. Obama’s percentage total was greater in several places; Washington D.C., for instance, pummeled San Francisco in the contest of who votes more loyally Democratic. In the capital of America, an astonishing 92.5% of voters supported the Illinois senator.

Most people who will hear this will probably start thinking something quite politically incorrect. The line of thought goes that “Washington is full of black people, all the blacks voted for Obama, so of course it voted that way.”

This is half true and half false.

It is true that the capital’s black population voted uniformly for the president – something that occurs with almost all Democratic candidates. The census, however, estimates that blacks compose only 54.4% of Washington’s overall population. This may surprise a lot of Americans who think the city is all-black. Even if every single black person in Washington voted Democratic, Mr. Obama still is quite a ways off from 92.5%.

Let’s look at another place with similar demographics to Washington D.C. – Montgomery County, Alabama where the Civil Rights movement started. Like Washington, Montgomery’s population is 52.9% black. Unlike Washington (where Mr. Obama won 92.5% of the vote), however, Montgomery only gave Mr. Obama 59.3% of the vote. Blacks are not responsible for this 33% difference; there is not much variation in how African-Americans voted in both cities.

The trick is with the white population. According to exit polls, Mr. Obama won 10% of whites in the state of Alabama. The results from Montgomery County reflect this low level of support.

In Washington, however, Mr. Obama won an astounding 86% of the white vote, according to exit polls. This is how the Illinois senator was able to get up to 92.5% of the vote in Washington, which is about one-third white. If white people alone had voted in Washington, Mr. Obama would still have done better than he did in San Francisco.

It would be quite interesting to explore why whites in the capital vote so loyally Democratic. Washington, of course, constitutes the center of the federal government; it would not be unusual for much of the white population to work for the government and thus vote more Democratic. But what type of work do they do – do they deliver the mail for the Post Office, or do they run the Post Office? Is Washington’s white population composed of mostly working-class, union-type Democrats? Or is it composed mostly of “wine-track” liberals, the type that populate cities like San Francisco and Seattle?

Whatever the answer, this statistic remains one of the most curious and interesting ones to come out of the 2008 presidential election. Indeed, until now this blogger was unaware that such one-sided Democratic voting patterns existed among whites anywhere in the nation. To get 86% of the vote anywhere is a burdensome feat. For a Democrat to get that support from whites is something that one does not see often in the United States.


by inoljt

A Startling Fact About the Black Electorate

2:31 pm in Uncategorized by inoljt

In the 2008 presidential election, 65.3% of eligible blacks voted – a voting rate about equal to the 66.1% of eligible whites who voted.

Table From Pew Research

This is actually quite amazing. Indeed, in demographic terms this should not be happening.

Here is why. Voter participation is affected by many categories. Age, for instance, is one factor. Young people, busy with their lives and politically less involved, have historically low voting rates. The elderly, on the other hand, vote in high numbers. Immigrants are also less likely to vote – thus the immigrant-heavy Hispanic and Asian communities have quite low voting rates, as the chart above indicates.

These two specific factors affect blacks and whites about equally. Others, however, hit blacks harder. As a whole, the black electorate is much poorer than the white electorate, and poor people are less likely to vote in the United States. In the 1988 presidential election, voter turn-out amongst the bottom fifth of Americans was 36.4%. Amongst the top fifth of Americans it was 63.1%. Education levels have a positive correlation with turn-out – and education attainment is lower amongst blacks than whites. More blacks also live in the South, where turn-out has been historically lower than the national mean. Finally, there are millions of blacks disenfranchised as ex-felons.

Demographically, therefore, blacks should be voting less than whites – and yet they are not.

This has startling implications. It means that a black person is far more likely to vote than a white person of similar circumstances. Indeed, according to the Census “the odds of voting in 2008 were about twice as high for blacks,” than whites once age, region, sex, income and educational attainment were factored in.

In other words, a black plumber was twice as likely to vote as a white plumber, a black lawyer twice as likely to vote as a white one. It is only because lawyers are more likely to vote than plumbers – and because the ratio of poor plumbers to rich lawyers is higher amongst blacks than whites – that voting participation is equal amongst blacks and whites.

This phenomenon is not just limited to 2008. In 2004 black voters in the South composed 17.9% of the overall Southern electorate, equal to their share of eligible voters. Consider that Southern blacks are poorer, less educated, and more likely to be in jail than Southern whites – yet still vote at the same rates as Southern whites. This means that a 30-year-old black male making $60,000 was much more likely to vote than his white counterpart.

So the next time that a political pundit talks about low black turn-out, don’t believe it. Person to person, man to man, blacks vote more often than any other race.