Thursday, November 06, 2008

Where McCain did well: Poverty, race, and the vote against Obama

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Via Yglesias, check out this interesting map showing where McCain did well in '08 in relation to Bush in '04.

It makes sense that he would do better in Arizona and Alaska, as well as in the Florida panhandle and parts of Georgia (given his military record), but his strength was clearly in that dark-red swathe that, from west to east, begins in Oklahoma, sweeps across Arkansas, Tennessee, and northern Alabama, dipping down into northern and eastern Texas, as well as most of Louisiana, and then moves to the northeast into eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, the western tip of Virginia, and, ultimately, southwestern Pennsylvania.

What to make of this? Well, it's not entirely clear. Why northern Alabama but not, so much, northern Mississippi? In fact, why Mississippi hardly at all? (Without looking into it closely, I suspect that high black turnout had a lot to do with it.) Similarly, why not South Carolina? (Perhaps because Obama did well there in the primaries and there was lingering anti-McCain sentiment from 2000.)

Well, I would suggest that it has more to do with Obama than with McCain. In a word: race.

The dark-red swathe doesn't correspond to Appalachia strictly speaking, and of course there is racism all over America (in Idaho, for example, where there is no red at all), but these are states with substantial working-class white populations, and where Obama had problems during the primaries -- Hillary won Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and, of course, Pennsylvania (although there were other factors at work there, such as the fact that she had the Democratic establishment behind her). The only exception is Louisiana, which Obama won, and where there is a large black population, even post-Katrina, in New Orleans. In fact, other than Louisiana, these states don't have any major urban areas with large black populations -- other than Memphis, Tennessee, perhaps. There is no Atlanta in Arkansas or West Virginia, for example.

North Carolina, which isn't red, is an interesting exception. Obama seems to have won it narrowly, significantly outperforming Kerry. Along with Virginia, it seems to be trending blue.

One other thing: The dark-red swathe isn't just predominantly white, it's also exceedingly poor. So it seems that McCain did well -- actually, did his best -- in a part of the country that is poor and white. Again, though, that no doubt had much more to do with the colour of his opponent's skin than with anything about McCain himself.

Labels: , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home