The Democrats’ Southern White Problem

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One of the key takeaways from the 2012 election is the fact that President Obama did well among blacks, Hispanics, and Asians, but poorly among whites. According to the national exit polls, Obama won only 39 percent of the white vote. That compares to 43 percent in 2008 and 41 percent for John Kerry in 2004.

But that’s misleading. I don’t have access to the internals of the exit polls, but Pew did a survey shortly before the election that showed Obama winning by three percentage points. This is pretty close to the final result, so their detailed breakdowns are probably pretty accurate too. So what do they say about the white vote? Here it is in colorful bar chart format.

One of these bars is not like the other. Obviously Democrats could stand to do better with white voters in the West and Midwest, but the real reason for their poor national showing among whites is the South. Overall, Obama won about 46 percent of the white vote outside the South and 27 percent of the white vote in the South. That’s a difference of nearly 20 points. In other words: Democrats don’t have a white problem. They have a Southern white problem, and that’s a whole different thing. The press should be more careful about how they report this.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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