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Black majority present in Orleans, aiding Nagin

For awhile after Hurricane Katrina, conventional wisdom was that Republicans and white candidates electorally would be advantaged in Orleans Parish. Congressional Research Service data indicated that blacks disproportionately fled the city and such relatively few numbers were left that non-blacks actually held a majority in New Orleans by Oct., 2005.

But it’s not going to happen. I presented a paper last week at the Louisiana Political Science Association 2006 annual meeting that estimates that while Orleans Parish will have regained less than half of its pre-storm population by city elections Apr. 22, it will have a black majority, using a model based upon estimated population and actual voter registration statistics both before and after Hurricane Katrina struck the greater New Orleans area in late Aug., 2005.

Taking a voting model based upon past elections shows, with so many blacks registered as Democrats and historically voting for such candidates that Democrat candidates should have little trouble in winning city/parish elections. We have to remember that New Orleans was 68 percent black in population prior to Katrina, with over 165,000 more blacks than all other racial group numbers combined. About half of all registered voters were black Democrats. Even if blacks are not returning to the city in the proportion, 73 percent, that comprised the evacuees, it appears a majority, about 57 percent, of the returnees are black.

As the city continues to repopulate, blacks have regained their numerical dominance, a trend that will continue until New Orleans reaches its “carrying capacity” of just over 300,000 around the end of the year. Then the city will grow slowly if at all for some time. But there will be an estimated 115,242 blacks present in New Orleans by Apr. 22, as opposed to about 103,000 non-blacks.

We also can use historical data to figure out the numbers of black Democrats, white Democrats, and white Republicans projected to be present, to create a voting model. The statistics don’t look good for Republicans at all. 53,803 black Democrats are predicted to be in New Orleans on election day, compared to less than 18,000 white Republicans. And even if, unrealistically, one theorized that every single white Democrat voted for a Republican, those predicted there only comprise about 26,000. The black and Democrat advantage will continue to grow by the general election runoff on May 20.

Adjusting by registration and historical voting patterns doesn’t change this relationship. Blacks expected to vote still will outnumber non-blacks by several hundred. And this does not include absentee/early voting totals which are heavily weighed to blacks.

These numbers tell us that if the likes of Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu want to wrest the mayor’s job from Ray Nagin, they’re going to have to do it the old-fashioned way: a bi-racial coalition. Being the only major black candidate in the race, unless one of the major white candidates can snare a non-trivial portion of the black vote, Nagin will win even with all the bad publicity he has garnered (and he realizes this as his campaigning emphasizes his ethnicity.)

To win the office of New Orleans mayor in 2006, you’re almost certainly going to have to run as a Democrat. And if you base your strategy of the mistaken belief that whites will comprise a majority of voters, you guarantee yourself defeat. (P.S. if readers would like a copy of the paper, write me.)


Anonymous said...

Nagin is a Republican and only won his last election because of the significant numbers of whites that voted for him. Now he has alienated the white population and the blacks never liked him to begin with!

Anonymous said...

Wishful thinking is really contriving some absurd statistical estimates in this. Less than 1/3rd of the school children enrolled in August are enrolled now, and that number is 90%+ black pre and post storm. That's only accurate statisic of who has returned in the black community. Oh yeah, who is more likely to vote absentee, 9th ward residents or Lakeview residents?
Too bad for C. Ray Wonka.