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31.3.05

Chauvinism: it's a Democrat/Liberal thing

David Duke may have been a blip on Louisiana’s political radar, but to this day his image still blots a considerable portion of others’ radar reception of the state. (Personal anecdote, of which I promise few and far between: when in 1994 I was staying in Belize City barely on the right side of the tracks, my brother and I hung out one night on the second-floor veranda of our hotel. An itinerant, like the plurality of Belizeans, black and, by his manner, not well educated, came wandering by and struck up a conversation with us and a woman from California also staying there. He digested her residence and Jonathan’s, Texas, with equanimity, but in response to mine he noted, “The state with David Duke and all those racists”).

Thus when about a year ago an article published in the premier online journal in political science, The Forum came out essentially arguing racism was alive and well in Louisiana’s 2003 governor’s contest, it got some attention. The state’s leading unaffiliated journalist John Maginnis wrote about it, the state’s leading talk show host Moon Griffon mentioned it, and a couple of newspapers noted it in editorials.

It got my attention too because a number of years ago I got involved in an intramural argument about the meaning of the Duke vote in 1991. Essentially a set of authors argued that vote still showed a considerable anti-black affect among white Louisianans. I eventually published another piece disputing that and demonstrating that a better electoral interpretation was that Duke had tapped into an anti-interventionist, anti-big government populism among Louisianans. In short, contrary to what the other authors asserted that a nontrivial portion of the Duke vote came from racial prejudice, instead it came because they saw him as an outsider ready to take on a government too ready to support special interests at their expense.

Now emerged this argument that out of racial animosity normally sure Republican voters had abandoned nonwhite Bobby Jindal in favor of Kathleen Blanco, especially in northern Louisiana which has a history of being less tolerant to people who are different than are people in the rest of the state (mainly, but not exclusively, because of the Catholic heritage in the southern part of the state). A surface glance at the returns of the general election kind of indicates that Jindal ran more poorly in northern Louisiana than he should have.

After reviewing the authors’ work, I had some quibbles in how they had tried to prove their point. Without going into all of the gory details, I thought they could have used better variables and more of them to make for a better-specified, more complete model. Still, when I ran the numbers, I got results somewhat different but still seeming to show prejudice in voting in north Louisiana. Intuitively, I knew something wasn’t quite right here.

Then it was suggested to me that I check out some data my alma mater, the University of New Orleans, had obtained through the outfit where I had my first academic job, the UNO Poll. What bugged me was that the other authors and I were using aggregate data (for example, percentage of Jindal vote in a parish) where individual-level data (such as answers to the question who an individual intended to vote for) would do a much better job in revealing certain information, such as partisanship.

They had done such a poll and its data unlocked the key to the mystery. As it turns out, partisanship effects overwhelmed all other considerations in this contest. Republicans (over 90 percent) voted solidly for Jindal, as did social conservatives. It was among moderates and liberals, independents and Democrats, and especially among blacks, where a wide gap opened between north and south in the state, where northerners of these stripes were far less likely to vote to vote for Jindal.

In other words, there was a kind of “chauvinism” in reference to Jindal, a negative feeling about him disproportionately in north Louisiana – but it came strongest from Democrats, liberals, and particularly blacks. They were the reason his vote totals seemed “too low” in the northern part of the state; they seemed, for whatever reason, to be much less likely than their southern counterparts to support him (whereas Republicans and conservatives supported him almost uniformally across the state).

It’s not possible with this data to tell definitively whether bitterness or reverse discrimination or whatever reason fueled this phenomenon, but one thing is clear: if there was any racial prejudice in voting in this election, it didn’t come from Republicans or conservatives. And so recently The Forum published this work of mine.

Will the state’s media show as much interest in this as it did the other, now shown as questionable in conclusions, research? We’ll see, but I bet not, because it doesn’t fit that all-too-convenient storyline that the liberal mainstream media wants us to believe, that there are an abundance of wild-eyed white conservative Republican racists in this state, who are the reason why we elect a Bush, a Vitter … a Jindal?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I cam upon this thread through politicsla. My question is this: does your research take in to account the Republicans who simply didn't vote. Was there a difference in the number of voters who participated in this election versus previous elections? I guess my point being that some conservative Northern Louisianians chose not vote at all rather then vote for a democrat or vote for a minority.