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The Poisoned Landscape I: Race, Gender, And Election 2008

[Editor’s note: Our old friend Paul Lukasiak has been poring over polling data relating to the coming election, and what his analysis indicates is equal parts significant and disquieting. We think they’re significant enough that our readers will want to examine each section individually. So beginning today and continuing for the next five days, we’ll be presenting them as chapters in a multi-part series. Here’s the first part. — DN]

In choosing a nominee, the Democratic Party will not merely be deciding who deserves to win, or who would make the best candidate. It will also be a decision about which poisoned landscape the Party wishes to compete upon — one in which toxic wildflowers of misogyny and sexism are in full bloom, or one in which the poisonous weed of racism is a constant part of the environment, and needs the merest watering to completely despoil the land.

When the Survey USA (SUSA) 50 State Poll was released on March 6 (conducted Feb 26-28) comparing how McCain does against both Obama and Clinton, simply by looking at the data you could see wide discrepancies in how men and women voted. The trend is clear: men and women voted differently depending upon whether McCain was matched against Clinton or Obama. Women tended to stick with the Democrat regardless of whether it was Clinton or Obama, while men more frequently favored McCain when Clinton was on the ballot. The gender gap was significantly smaller when Obama was on the ballot. Sexism was obviously playing a role in the political landscape.

But it was clear that another factor was at work, a phenomenon described in a recent Nicholas Kristof column. When states were broken down by region, the two most consistently Republican/conservative regions showed a significant and consistent difference in the size of their gender gaps. The gap was much larger in the Mountain/Plains states than in The South. Not just sexism but also racism were major factors in how the 2008 election would play out.


The increase in the Black vote creates profound changes in how men and women support McCain, Obama, and Clinton. Overall, it benefits Clinton, and hurts Obama, when each is matched against McCain.

The chart below describes what happens within the male and female vote, and overall margins, as the percentage of the black vote rises. The proportions are the same, although the positions of the lines have been adjusted for greater clarity. The space between the horizontal axes represents a 5% change. The data is sorted according to black voter percentages in the states, and the gender distributions are “unweighed” data (see Note 1).

chart-1.jpg The BLACK LINE that cuts diagonally across the center represents the trend in the increase of black votes, and shows an overall “trend” increase of 27%

The top part of the chart is McCain v Obama, the lower part McCain v Clinton.

McCAIN v OBAMA (upper part of chart)

As the black vote increases:

  • McCain’s overall vote totals rise by about 6% (upper ORANGE line)
  • Obama’s overall vote totals decline by about 3% (DARK PURPLE line)
  • Obama’s margin against McCain declines 9% overall (comparative gaps between upper ORANGE and DARK PURPLE lines on the left and right side of the chart)
  • McCain receives an additional 5% of the male vote. (upper DARK GREEN line)
  • Obama receives 4% less of the male vote. (DARK BLUE LINE)
  • Obama’s margin among males declines by 9% (comparative gaps between upper DARK GREEN and DARK BLUE lines on the left and right side of the chart)
  • McCain receives an additional 6% of the female vote. (upper LIGHT GREEN line)
  • Obama receives 17% less of the female vote. (LIGHT BLUE LINE)
  • Obama’s margin among females declines by 25% (comparative gaps between upper
  • LIGHT GREEN and LIGHT BLUE lines on the left and right side of the chart)
  • McCain’s gender gap (the difference between how men an women voter for McCain) remains constant at about 14% (comparative gaps between upper LIGHT GREEN (female) and upper DARK GREEN (male) lines on the left and right side of the chart)
  • Obama’s gender gap expands dramatically, from about 2% to about 16% (comparative gaps between upper LIGHT BLUE (female) and upper DARK BLUE (male) lines on the left and right side of the chart)

But these lines really only describe overall trends, and cannot describe the complex interplay between race and gender, and racism and sexism, that define the electoral landscape (for instance while Obama’s gender gap does increase as the percentage of Black voters rises, it does not from 2% to 16%.).

To understand what is really going on, the data must be examined more closely.

Next: Racism and Sexism: What Happens When The Percentage of Black Voters Increases

[Cross-posted at Corrente.]

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Paul Lukasiak

Paul Lukasiak