9 votes

The Other Swing Voter

3 comments

  1. [3]
    BuckeyeSundae
    Link
    Evidenceless claims about voter behavior irritate me. The most problematic point that Kendi makes is that black voters stayed home in disproportionate numbers, and therefore swayed the election....

    Evidenceless claims about voter behavior irritate me. The most problematic point that Kendi makes is that black voters stayed home in disproportionate numbers, and therefore swayed the election. There are several reasons that argument is almost certainly not true.

    1. Not that many black voters stayed home, even proportionally to Obama-election-years. The crux of the argument about the importance of the black vote hinges on the incorrect idea that black voters hated Hillary. They didn't. In 2008, 13% of the electorate was black. That fell to 12% in 2016 exit polls--or in other words, very much within the margin of error for exit polls. Functionally an identical number of people polled in 2016 were black compared to 2008. That said, voter participation among black voters has always been a struggle, but remember: we're comparing to Obama in 2008. This is, according to Kendi's argument, a high-water mark of participation for Democratic black voters.

    2. Voter participation generally was not wildly different between 2012 and 2016. In fact, if you were to compare 2012 and 2016, voter participation is slightly higher in 2016 compared to 2012. But wait! Non-voters are expressing their discontent with democrats! Of course, and that's always been true. Voter participation in American elections hasn't broke 60% since the modern primary system was put in place for democrats in 1972. There simply is no coherent reason to blame the democrats of 2016 for something that has been true for decades.

    3. Shifts in non-college educated whites mattered a lot more than even Kendi gives it credit. Go back to that exit poll data from teh New York Times. "White without a college degree" constituted 39% of the electorate and went about 40%-58% for Obama and McCain respectively. Fast forward to 2016, that same demographic shrank to 34%, but they voted 28%-67% for Clinton and Trump respectively. Let's translate that to total votes in each year. 15.6%-22.6% in 2008 changed to 9.52%-22.8% in 2016. Notice how one of those numbers shrank by about 6% and the other didn't move at all? That's huge. This was not at all offset by changes to voting behavior among whites with a college degree. That remained mostly unchanged between voting years (though 2016 was a modest recovery from 2012 among whites with a college degree).

    Another way to refashion the stats I'm pointing out is to say that people came out and voted in their best interests despite efforts to suppress the vote by Republicans (and, let's be real, gerrymandering is a big component of this too, and that's much less partisan when you have political dominance in one party--looking at you, Maryland). It may be an uncomfortable reality that most of the people who didn't vote saw no difference between the candidates worth caring about. Maybe some of them have changed their minds, and that'd be great. But the nature of the less politically engaged is to also be less politically informed. Those traits go hand in hand. And the goal of every political activist is to get people involved, especially if they're demographically likely to support the activist's policies. Racial profiling in political activism of the sort Kendi is advocating is alive and well, and was almost overt in 2016. It's hard to see what change could be made to make it more a thing this go around.

    10 votes
    1. [2]
      envy
      Link Parent
      13% to 12% of the electoral total is a seven percent drop in blacks voting according to the Current Population Survey Voting and Registration Supplement While true, the first survey is backed up...

      In 2008, 13% of the electorate was black. That fell to 12% in 2016 exit polls

      13% to 12% of the electoral total is a seven percent drop in blacks voting according to the Current Population Survey Voting and Registration Supplement

      very much within the margin of error for exit polls

      While true, the first survey is backed up by the Pew Survey

      Trump won the swing states of Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by a margin of 1%, and won Arizona, North Carolina & Georgia by 5%, which gave him the required 72 electoral college votes. According to WP's analysis of Catalyst data

      Black turnout declined dramatically; white turnout increased noticeably; and Latino and Asian American turnout went up even more. In the key swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, those shifts were especially strong. How strong? Without those shifts in turnout from various racial and ethnic groups, these pivotal states might have gone not to Trump but to Clinton — giving Clinton an electoral college victory.

      With thin margins in the swing states, you can point to a number of factors that, if they were different, might have swung the election. I personally think just one Aussie is ultimately responsible for swinging the election.

      5 votes
      1. BuckeyeSundae
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        That's IF the polling error is exactly zero (remember this is coming from exit polls). Unfortunately, most exit polls typically have a 2-3% margin of error. Hence why I said that the drop was...

        13% to 12% of the electoral total is a seven percent drop in blacks voting according to the Current Population Survey Voting and Registration Supplement.

        That's IF the polling error is exactly zero (remember this is coming from exit polls). Unfortunately, most exit polls typically have a 2-3% margin of error. Hence why I said that the drop was within the margin of error. Your next point was much better.

        While true, the first survey is backed up by the Pew Survey.

        The evidence you're citing isn't actually Pew's survey. It's the Census Bureau's addition to its Current Population Survey that it adds in every two years. So, really, it's even better than if you were just citing a Pew poll in that it's a poll conducted every two years by the Census bureau. I couldn't find the margin of error for that report, but I know that in general they typically get enough response rate to push that error rate down to the 1-2% range (which is very good).

        So with that in perspective, let's look at what the Voter and Registration addition to the CPS actually says. It says that a population of black voters that roughly matched non-Obama era high participation rates was seen. Why do I say it that way? Because if you ignore 2008 and 2012, participation rates among black voters in 2016 was within one percentage point of both the spikes of 2004 and 1992, 59.6% in 2016 versus 60.3% in 2004 and 59.3% in 1992. In other words, even for CPS' more reliable survey than the typical poll, this rate was within the margin of error of non-Obama era high participation rates.

        Trump won the swing states of Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by a margin of 1%, and won Arizona, North Carolina & Georgia by 5%, which gave him the required 72 electoral college votes. According to WP's analysis of Catalyst data.

        Here's the problem I have with arguments that go down this road: there are tons of different factors that can influence close elections. Pointing to any single one of them as THE factor that made the difference is disingenuous, and a misrepresentation of fact. Reality is complicated, and no single factor would have made the difference.

        The question that makes the most sense when thinking about this topic is not "what could have made the difference" but more along the lines "what were the largest factors?" It could also make sense to talk about the median voter, as compared to national average, in this circumstance, but that comes with its own struggles in this context.

        What's worse, at least as far as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are concerned, the black population is disproportionately lower in those states than in other states. Meaning, compared to the nation as a whole, black mobilization in those two states has less of a direct impact on the state's overall outcome compared to other states (like, say, Georgia). To make the claim that this demographic turnout was the difference in these states, you must establish the proportion of voters that would have voted for the Democratic candidate in those states. A national argument alone is hand waiving and insubstantial, especially when compared to MUCH bigger shifts in demographics.

        I mean, would you really argue that 6% of the total national vote is larger than 7% of 13%? Even if we assume--against Kendi's explicit argument--that literally 100% of black voters would have voted for hillary, the change in White voters without a college degree is STILL six times larger than the drop in voter turnout among black voters for her. There is absolutely NO reason to lay the blame for that shift on black voters. And it is NOT a justification for racial profiling in activism (which is some of why the margins were so notable among less engaged populations in teh first place; Clinton camps played to their partisans, so, too, did the Trump camps).

        8 votes