The current meme is that HRC was doing great among Black voters until her campaign started making racist statements and now she has lost the majority of her Black support. There are two problems with this claim. The first is that the campaign has not been making racist statements. The Obama campaign has had a deliberate strategy of calling the Clinton campaign racist and the media has allowed itself to be led along. Obama himself confessed to this strategy in the Nevada debate when shown a copy of a campaign memo directing campaign workers to use race-bating to defame Hillary Clinton. The second is that HRC's Black support as measured in entrance and exit polls is holding steady, and that Obama's increased Black support has come mostly at Edwards' expense. The real story here is Obama failing to attract white Edwards supporters.
In Iowa, Black voters made up a small percentage of the overall vote (3%, somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 voters), but they went overwhelmingly to Obama. The breakdown was:
16% - Clinton
01% - Dodd
08% - Edwards
72% - Obama
03% - Richardson
In New Hampshire, Black voters made up approximately 1% (2800) of the voters, and the media did not bother to break out how these votes were allocated. I don't think I'm making an unreasonable guess that at least 72% of those 2800 voters went with Obama, and it was probably much larger. Obama was coming off the strong win in Iowa and there was excitement among all his constituents. I would not be surprised to know that 100% of Black voters in New Hampshire voted for Obama.
In between New Hampshire and Michigan, the accusations of racism and "playing the race card" were thrown at the Clinton camp. The news reports coming out of Michigan were about how Black voters had abandoned Clinton. Let's look at the numbers:
There were 628,837 votes cast in Michigan's Democratic primary. 23% of that total were cast by Blacks, for an approximate Black vote of 144,632.
30% - Cinton
01% - Dodd
68% - Uncommitted
Clinton got almost double the Black vote in Michigan as she did in Iowa, and this was during the worst of the racism allegations. Even if you cut that number in half, saying either voters reluctant to vote uncommitted would have gone for Obama if his name was on the ballot or else that 25% of the Black vote did not come out as a repudiation of Clinton - that still gives her 15% and a number comparable to her showing in Iowa.
Now let's go to Nevada. Turn out for the Democratic caucuses was approximately 110,000. Entrance polls set the Black percentage of that total at 15%, so about 16,500 voters. How did they cast their votes?
14% - Clinton
01% - Edwards
83% - Obama
01% - Uncommitted
Obama's percentage increase in Black vote, when compared to Iowa, indicates that his gain in these votes came mostly from former Edwards and Richardson supporters, not from Clinton attrition. Clintons' percentage of Black vote (taking away half of her Michigan support) is @ 15%.
Now, let's look at white votes. For the sake of clarity, I am going to show only the support of Clinton, Edwards and Obama:
White votes are not increasing for Obama in this table. He is holding steady in the mid 30s. What is changing is where the vote of the other candidates is going when they drop out or are no longer seen as competitive, which is what is happening to Edwards. It's going in most part to HRC.
And now here will be the controversial chart. The numbers for this chart are to be taken with a big grain of salt. Iowa broke out non-white and non-Black votes, but lumped them all together as "Other" at 3% of total votes. New Hampshire and Michigan likewise did not break out these numbers. Nevada showed only Latino votes, which were 15% of the total, the same as the Black vote:
This chart shows that, in Nevada, Obama's support among Latinos was significantly less than HRC's, and that Edwards' support is even worse. It also shows that, in Iowa, Obama was the choice of almost 50% of non-white and non-Black voters. This could indicate that he is losing Latino support, but the samples are too small and varied to really compare them.
So, what to make of these numbers? A few things:
- Clinton has not lost appreciable levels of support among Black voters, despite the negative press. She seems to be holding on at @ 15%.
- White Edwards voters are probably more likely to move to Clinton than to Obama.
- Edwards doesn't appear to have much pull with Latino or Asian voters.
- Obama does not appear to be as strong with Latino voters as Clinton. It would be wrong to see this as "defection", however, because there wasn't a large enough clearly defined sample in other states to find a trend. Iowa, as explained in an earlier post, needs to be seen as an outlier vote, so the support probably hasn't been there in the first place.
I expect Obama will continue to pull at least 75% of the Black vote. If he does not, that is extremely bad news for his campaign. I expect Clinton will continue to hold onto about 15% of the Black vote, with possible gains in certain states such as New York where she commands a strong following.
The "loss" of Black support for Clinton has more to do with that voting group deciding that Obama is a viable candidate (which was always the biggest reason given for not supporting him) than through any rejection of HRC. Media focus on how many of these voters are picking Obama ignores the way in which they chose him before any controversy erupted, and ignores the relative vulnerability of Obama's claim on that group - it's not primarily about race, it's about viability.
All of this gets back to the media's moronic insistence on seeing anyone who is not an upper-middle class white male as a "special interest" - women, minorities, unions, blue collar, immigrants, etc. - and presumes that the sole basis for their voting decisions is some kind of simplisitic identity politics. Not all women support HRC, though most do. Not all Blacks support Obama, though most do. The media doesn't seem to get it that these overt markers of identity - ethnicity, gender, class - are the factors that seal the deal for candidate selection, not what determines the vote. I very much doubt the majority of Black Democratic Party members would vote for Alan Keyes, for example, nor would most female Democrats give Liddy Dole a vote.
In conclusion, Black support for Obama solidified immediately before Iowa and has remained strong. Clinton continues to hold a significant slice of that vote and may increase it by a few percentages in the coming weeks, but don't look for any major gains in the absense of a really bad scandal in Obama's camp. The battle now is for who will pick up Edwards' supporters, and it looks like Hillary is winning.