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9.11.08

Ideas, not skin color, matter most to most LA white voters

In their enthusiasm to validate certain agendas, some observers are (again) using Louisianans’ voting behavior as a means by which to attempt to do this. Thus, it is imperative to set the record straight.

Upon observing that, according to exit polls, Sen. Barack Obama improved upon his proportion of white voters in many parts of the country but not in some deep South states such as Louisiana, some argue it was Obama’s race (officially mulatto but thought of as black) that primarily explained this. That is, vestiges of racism remained in some white Louisianans who otherwise would have voted for Obama on the basis of other qualities, according to this view.

While such a hypothesis might support a larger ideological view that racism is thereby still too ingrained in American society and therefore would justify activist government to “correct” for it, one obviously very ignored and blatant piece of evidence cannot be admitted by these advocates for it to stand: last year, an overwhelming proportion of white voters in the state touched the screen for a very dark-skinned Gov. Bobby Jindal, even when there were plenty of white alternative candidates.

This points us to the real reason behind much greater white enthusiasm for Jindal than Obama – ideology. Jindal’s Republican identification and rhetoric made clear his conservative credentials, and although Obama intentionally muddied his liberalism with generic bromides, this and his Democrat label clarified to all but the most causal voter that he was liberal. White voters in the state are overwhelmingly conservative (exit polling shows of all voters 42 percent call themselves conservative and only 16 percent liberal; half of the latter figure is probably nonwhites) and these elections have shown that they will respond accordingly if given at least minimal amounts of cues about candidates.

While undoubtedly a few whites will harbor racial prejudice in their voting behavior, the notion that it is widespread or generally significant to an election outcome cannot be sustained by the facts (as I demonstrated elsewhere), at least in Louisiana. Give Obama Jindal’s rhetoric and not only would he have done much better in the state, he would have won; paint Obama paler and little would have changed. Until analysts understand this basic truism, their conjectures on voting behavior in the Pelican State largely will be useless.

2 comments:

James Sanders said...

Thank you Prof. Sadow! I am sick to death of these "observers" who ascribe every vote against their chosen one as having a racist motive. They should examine their own motives before accusing us of their very sins...

T. Wong said...

It seems an oddity, however, that Bossier Parish voted almost 3:1 for McCain; however, about 53% of Bossier votes cast in the LA-04 races went to Democrats. Many if not most of the parishes in LA-04 show a much higher percentage of Democrat votes cast than in the presidential race.

Could be that the two Dem candidates in LA-04 are much more conservative than Obama, I suppose.

I would like to believe what is written in this post, but do the numbers not call these conclusions into question?