Monday, July 09, 2012

Whitebread swing states, diverse settled states

The WSJ has a typical, intentionally misleading companion graphic to the 4,134th article in this year's election cycle about the growing, increasingly determinative role of the Hispanic vote in deciding who will become President next January and every four years after that until the earth crashes into the sun:

The number of Hispanics eligible to vote in the selected, displayed swing states is greater than the margin of victory in each of those states was in 2008. Consequently, the Hispanic vote will determine who wins in all of them! Of course, the WSJ could have just as easily done the same using the number of white voters instead of Hispanic voters with the result being that instead of readers seeing that there are twice as many Hispanics in Colorado as there were more voters who voted for Obama than for McCain, they'd see that there is something like ten times as many white voters as there were more Obama voters than McCain voters in the same election. That would give the impression that the white vote is a lot more important than the Hispanic vote, though, so that's not what we get.

Inductivist has already pointed out that the swing states are whiter and less Hispanic than the settled states are. Deja vu? We saw something very similar in 2008.

Let's systematically compare the demographics of the toss up, leaning, and settled states, and configure an estimate of the ethnic/racial vote shares in each of these three groups of states. To do so, I use categorizations from the NYT's interactive electoral map to classify each state as either toss up, leaning, or settled. Using 2010 US Census information, I then figure the shares of whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians (all groups other than Hispanics are comprised of non-Hispanics) in each of the three categories, with the "other" racial category being excluded from all calculations. I multiply these shares by a particpation factor for each racial grouping that is computed by taking the share of total votes cast in the 2008 presidential election and dividing it by the share of the total population the corresponding racial grouping represents. I proportionally correct for rounding errors and the demographic change that has occurred in the last three years so that the estimated percentages equal 100% (instead of 102%, 104%, and 96%, respectively). I don't make an attempt to correct for differential voting rates by race across states (if you're aware of an easy way to do this, feel free to alert me to it), electing instead to use the national rates and apply them equally to each individual state. While the country has continued inexorably towards becoming less white and more Hispanic and Asian in the intervening three years, exit polls consistently understate the white share of the vote and overstate the minority shares of the vote so the small discrepancies are more-or-less a wash*.

That said, the predicted racial total vote shares for the toss up, leaning, and settled states:

Toss up80.7%11.4%6.3%1.6%

How inconvenient that homogenous states like Wisconsin and New Hampshire are the most hotly disputed while vibrant states like California and Texas are settled contests. And in Florida, the most racially diverse of the competitive states, the significantly Cuban Hispanic population is unrepresentative of Hispanics in much of the rest of the country on issues like taxation and immigration. The competitive states are more white and less black, Hispanic, and Asian than the states that have essentially already been decided are. More than four out of five of the 'determining' votes cast will be cast by non-Hispanic whites. It looks like appealing especially hard to the concerns of (mostly middle American) whites is the key to victory in November. Even this nation's electoral map is racist!

* That methodological description isn't the easiest thing to follow, so if you're interested in the raw data and how I used them, email me at and I'll send the excel file right over.


Jokah Macpherson said...

The WSJ's analysis cracked me up as well. Related to the share of voters who are white: have you or any of the other bloggers ever done an analysis of "malleability" of voters by race/ethnic group? Not only are hispanics (and blacks) very small voting blocs, they are so consistent in their voting patterns from election to election that it makes it especially not worth it to try to make inroads. If you are a politician, you have to go where the pickings are easiest and I suspect that is the whites.

If this is true, you could almost say that white voters are the most diverse in their views but we all know whites are never diverse. Ever.

Noah172 said...

Whites, especially old-stock, WASPy whites, think as individuals when it comes to politics: what's good for me and my immediate family and neighborhood. Non-whites and Jews (and some white splinter groups) see politics more or less tribally: what's in it for US (us meaning "our kind"). Anglo-Saxons gave the world the theory of evolution, but can't seem to apply to politics.

If this blog post were a VDare article, it would have been entitled: "Diversity is Our Strength -- and Also, Uncompetitive Elections"

Anonymous said...

Democrat voters are not for more immigration of any kind and least of all illegal immigration.

Having the Republicans adopt an immigration stance more similar to that of the Democrats just reduces the incentive for democrats and independents to vote for Republicans.

Audacious Epigone said...


That's an interesting idea, as potentially problematic as exit polling numbers can be. This is about the closest I've come.

Audacious Epigone said...


Yeah, if there was anything approaching balance in media treatment of the issue, we'd hear about the opportunity the GOP has to poach 'nativists' from the Democratic party by holding the line on immigration.

chucho said...

I have a column idea for you--which is the most redneck state? Some variables would be white vs black population (seems to me, the more blacks, the more redneck the state), white out-of-wedlock births, white crime, evangelicalism, creationism, gun ownership, etc. I'm sure you can think of many more.

My bet is Louisiana comes out top.

Anonymous said...

Kansas Rednecks?

meh, they don't seem so bad.