Arnold Kling  

A Patchwork of Prejudices

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CNN reports,


Sen. Hillary Clinton can thank Latino and Asian voters for her projected victory in California. Early exit polls indicate that Sen. Barack Obama carried white voters in California because of his overwhelming support among white men. White women, as in other states, more often supported Clinton. Black voters overwhelmingly favored Obama but Asian voters, whose numbers are comparable to blacks, went overwhelmingly for Clinton. The deciding factor may have been Latinos, who make up roughly 30 percent of California's Democratic vote. They went for Clinton by a two-to-one margin.

In November, after the election, the media will tell us that the public delivered a mandate on issues. But what issues caused Asians and Latinos to vote against Obama? What issues caused evangelical Christians to vote against Romney?

Some day, instead of an exit poll saying that X percent of people listed health care as the number on issue, I would like to see an exit poll saying that Y percent of people were able to correctly identify correctly the differences between the candidates' proposals on health care. I think that Y would be less than 5 percent.

If the United States had a multi-party parliamentary system with proportional representation, our patchwork of prejudices would likely yield a government comparable to Italy's.


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COMMENTS (14 to date)
David N. Welton writes:

*Shudder*... proportional representation as done in Italy leads to awful results. Italy's a wonderful place in many ways, with smart, hard working people, but they really are kept down by a terrible system.

Ignorance is Bliss writes:
In November, after the election, the media will tell us that the public delivered a mandate on issues.

Only if a Democrat wins. If a Republican wins they will tell us it was either be because the public was sexist or racist.

jimmyc writes:

You seem to be insinuating that Evangelicals aren't voting for Romney because he's Mormon. Might it be that they're uncertain that any stances he has taken on social issues dear to their hearts (i.e. abortion) may not be genuine? That seems like an issue-based concern to me.

chris bangerter writes:

Jimmyc- you ask if "it might be" that Evangelicals are choosing to not vote for Romney because of his stance on social issues. Wishful thinking. I live in Tennessee and have listened to talk radio commentators and other local influence-peddlers repeatedly announce they could not support a Mormon. I suppose that is not what bothers me the most though. What bothers me the most is how cynically Huckabee has exploited this prejudice. I think the guy is a bum.

Never Certain writes:

Absolutely right. Many Asians, by the way, openly admit being highly suspicious of a black candidate. Whites tend to deny being racist, but how else to explain the overwhelming pattern of support by age in southern states? (old whites massively supporting Clinton, and young whites opting for Obama. This pattern is also partly because Clinton is older, but the fact it is much weaker in more liberal states is telling). Racism is also a big reason why Obama does better once voters get to know him better - familiarity with an individual person helps overcome racial prejudice.

Bottom line: racism may well be weak enough for America to elect an African American President, but it is definitely not quite dead yet. Of course, one of the great things about an Obama presidency would be what it would do to destroy remaining racial prejudice.

David Rogers writes:
But what issues caused Asians and Latinos to vote against Obama? What issues caused evangelical Christians to vote against Romney

Can't help you on Romney. But as someone who lived through the Rodney King riots, I think it's obvious why Asian Americans are reluctant to vote for a black candidate.

The most interesting statistic from last night, IMHO, is that Hillary! lost BOTH black and white voters in California, but nonetheless prevailed by taking Hispanic voters by a 3-1 margin.

Oh, yeah. The Clintons aren't racists. Latinos aren't racist. Democrats aren't racist. Take it to the bank.

Flash Gordon writes:

While race, if not racism, can partly explain some of these results I think there is more to the story.

Asians can be expected to have a certain animus towards at least a segment of Blacks because of the the Rodney King riots and also because most Asians take responsibility for themselves, work hard, study hard, and are high achievers. All the victim complaints coming by and on behalf of Blacks are fingernails on the chalk board to an Asian immigrant who might have come to America with nothing but his underwear, did not speak English, but now owns a prosperous business and sends his children to an Ivy League university.

Most Asians have strong family commitments and are bewildered at the level of family destruction in the Black underclass. Having suffered through and triumphed over greater hardship than anything Blacks have faced (at least in the last 50 years) they do not accept the excuses given for Black failure.

Barak Obama, of course, is of a quite different Black experience but he, like most Black liberals, makes the usual excuses for Black crime and poverty. Few Asians of any political persuasion are buying any of that. So while their vote may appear to follow racial lines, I don't believe it has anything to do with racial prejudice.

Floccina writes:

...and McCain is getting the anti Iraq occupation vote! Stunning!

Neema writes:

Check out the exit polls from California. For the question "Race of candidate..."

Most important (6%) Clinton 66% - Obama 33%
One of several (10%) Clinton 60% - Obama 38%
Not important (82%) Clinton 51% - Obama 40 %

Democrats have some explaining to do?

arthur writes:

Why assume that the Latino vote was anti-Obama? Since when are they obliged to vote for him?
Can't you accept it simply for what it is, a vote pro-Hillary? Using your logic, then anybody's vote is against somebody!

LemmusLemmus writes:

I disagree on proportional representation; I definitely prefer the system we have here in Germany to the one you have in the US. Not only does it represent the will of the people better (which is what democracy is all about, no?), it also gives me the chance to vote for a party I actually kinda like (which would not be the case if I had to vote in America).

The crucial difference between the German and the Italian system is that in Germany we have what's called the "five-percent-hurdle", i.e., a party has to get at least five percent of the votes to get into parliament. As a consequence, we have never had more than two parties in government (instead of, say, nine), which has lead to high stability of government. It's the best of both worlds.

(You might want to lose one of those "correctly"s)

CJ writes:

[Comment removed for supplying false email address. Email the webmaster@econlib.org to request restoring this comment. A valid email address is required to post comments on EconLog.--Econlib Ed.]

the ghost writes:

Implicit in your parliamentary suggestion is the idea that fair chances for candidates is a more worthy goal for a democracy than attaining the desired government. I disagree. Despite what some of our Senators believe, elected offices do not exist to celebrate the qualities of their holders, but to affect the desired government of the public.

If the public feels, consciously or unconsciously, that the person less likely to have the place blown up fits a terribly unfair "profile," more power to them (us). However "wrong" it is to weigh race, age, gender, personal connection, and the shiftiness of Nixon's brow, it's by far a more effective method than weighing anything that comes out of a politician's mouth.

Oh, yeah. The Clintons aren't racists.
Well, you're right, of course. They just have no compunction about cynically manipulating racism within their own "tolerant" party.
Latinos aren't racist. Democrats aren't racist.
So the bitter identity politics and race wars can be explained...how? It's all well and good for Democrats to delude themselves that "Republican" means "racist" to make themselves feel better. But when you start believing "racist" means "Republican," you're insulating yourself from reality.

NeverCertain writes:

The question whether race was an important part of our vote is interesting, but it captures only a tiny part of the problem. To start with, few racists would admit being racists. But more importantly, most racial prejudice is unconscious. Many whites, Asians, and Latinos just find blacks less trustworthy without realising that this has anything to do with the candidate being black. They think they are judging a person by the content of their character, whereas in reality a big part is played by the color of their skin.

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