Why the Racial Gap Will Widen
As gaping as it was in 2008, the racial gap between the parties in presidential politics is likely to only widen in the coming years.
In a fresh and insightful new book, Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz points out that during the presidential elections of the 1950s, non-whites provided about 7 percent of all the votes won by Democrats and 3 percent of the votes collected by Republicans, according to the University of Michigan’s National Election Studies data. But since then, he writes in The Polarized Public? Why American Government is So Dysfunctional, “the racial divide between supporters of the two parties has widened, from a very narrow gap…to a yawning chasm….” By 2008, according to the Edison Research exit polls, minorities provided about two-fifths of all the votes cast for Barack Obama and only about one in every ten votes won by John McCain. One party has become kaleidoscopic; the other has remained largely monochromatic.
The gap looks even wider when age is added to the equation. Minorities now provide nearly half of all votes Democrats win from younger voters, but still only a modest percentage of the Republican vote in those age groups. Minorities provided 49 percent of all the votes won by Obama among young adults aged 18-29, compared to 14 percent of the votes McCain attracted among that age group, Abramowitz calculated. Among voters aged 30-44, minorities provided 45 percent of Obama’s votes, and just 12 percent of McCain’s.
For both men, minorities provided a smaller share of the vote among older populations. Non-whites provided one-third of Obama’s 2008 support among voters aged 45-64 and about one-quarter of his votes among seniors. For McCain, the comparable numbers were 9 percent and 7 percent respectively.