Monday, September 5, 2011


Today I've been gobbling up Randall Kennedy's book The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency. Among many great insights, this statistical point, made in a footnote and drawn from Nate Silver's blog FiveThirtyEight, struck me as particularly startling:

In 1980, nearly 98 percent of Ronald Reagan's voters were white. In 2000, 91 percent of George W. Bush's voters were white. In 2008, 89 percent of John McCain's voters were white.


Anonymous said...

Then we have to get more people of color to vote!!!!! Together, the whites who are sane and the people of color should be able to elect decent, intelligent people. Barbara Osburg

Joe Hodes said...

What is the source of the 1980 demographic info? I went looking for data from pre-1932 to show AA voting trends before FDR, and instead found this polling firm that gives a VERY different view of the 1980 demos:
What is the source for 2%? - Joe H.

framiko said...

@Barbara-I agree with you. I think that's what happened in the presidential election of 2008.

@Joe-The source was Nate Silver's blog. The Roper Center data you linked to is consistent with the Nate Silver info cited by Kennedy. Reagan got 14% of the black vote (which was 10% of the overall electorate) and 37% of the Hispanic vote (which was 2% of the electorate). Given those percentages, nonwhite votes come to be only around 2% of Reagan's total.

Here's my math. (I hope, somewhere, Fr. Vonderhaar is proud of me.)

White 88 x .56 = 49.28
Black 10 x .14 = 1.4
Hispanic 2 x .37 = .74

Total Reagan Vote = 51.42

(1.4+.74) / 51.42 = 2.14

framiko said...

Correction: (1.4+.74)/51.42=.041618.

Okay, Fr. Vonderhaar probably isn't proud of me after all...

So according to the Roper data, Reagan's votes were nearly 96% from white people. According to Nate Silver (via Randall Kennedy), Reagan's votes were nearly 98%.

I can't account for the small discrepancy.