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Likely higher black vote for Jindal to give him outright win

At 30 percent of the total electorate, blacks comprise one of the largest minority voting blocs of any state in the Union. If Republican Rep. Bobby Jindal wins the governor’s election outright this Saturday, it well may be in part to his expansion in votes relative to his previous attempt from the black community. And a significant increase in that vote is likely to happen.

Two independent polls put Jindal at about 20 percent of blacks who are registered and say they intend to vote this weekend. Since this marks an approximate doubling of his estimated total from the 2003 campaign, some have questioned it. To understand the validity of the doubts, let me relate some pieces of inside information from my days working on polls.

First, polls tend to reflect a little “bandwagon” effect – the favorite tends to run a little higher in polls than the actual vote because some people with minimal information about the contest, but who plan on acquiring more before the actual vote, will say the frontrunner. However, when it is a nonincumbent involved in a race such as this, the effect tends to be small. So Jindal might be picking up a couple of percentage points this way from blacks, and everybody, polled.

Second, blacks tend to indicate in larger proportions that they are undecided than whites. This is because they are more likely to say they intend to vote, then don’t do it. Assuming a majority of blacks who vote cast them against Jindal, the more of them that abstain, the better off Jindal is electorally.

Third, if a black respondent says he will vote for a Republican, he usually means it. Since fewer than 10 percent typically register as Republicans and given the pressure members of the black community are under by their “leaders” to vote the Democrat party line, for a black respondent to indicate preference for a Republican candidate means there has been some thought put into it and to make such a psychological break means this is a pretty solid commitment.

(Something pollsters have noted is if the race of the phone interviewer is detectable, blacks to a small degree give different answers to perceived white interviewers than to perceived black interviewers which can inflate totals of candidates that are believed to be “favored” by “whites.” However, pollsters generally negate this tendency by assigning black and/or female callers to black registrants to the degree that is possible, and this probably was done by both the polling operations.)

So when a black elected official says some people want to be associated with a winner, he’s right – but that represents a pretty small percentage of those blacks saying they plan to vote for Jindal and who then don’t. And when a black minister who has run for statewide office before indicates that many black community leaders automatically reject Jindal because of his partisan and/or ideological status, it shows why there is doubt Jindal will do much better than in 2003 among black voters – because they are missing the relative surge in Jindal’s support in the community either because they are denying it to themselves, or because some blacks are, to put it delicately, not being honest with them about their vote intention because they think it would upset these leaders to hear they intend to vote for Jindal.

Some doubters point out that even black Republican candidates have not run well statewide among blacks – for example, Lynn Swann got only an estimated 13 percent of the black vote in his run for Pennsylvania governor. But that’s about where the polls had him before the election, and he ended up with 40 percent of the total vote. So if polls tend to be accurate on black intended votes for Republicans (for reasons stated above), we can be very confident in Jindal’s receiving at least 15 percent, maybe even 20 percent, of the black vote – a significant increase from 2003.

Which leaves a final question – why? One obvious, although perhaps not exclusive, explanation presents itself. Jindal is running against, in terms of major candidates, a Democrat white, moderately conservative businessman, an independent white, moderately conservative businessman, and a Democrat white rural liberal populist from north Louisiana who is underfinanced and has no reputation at all for working with and making special initiatives to target the black community in Louisiana. None of these characteristics especially appeal to black voters and so, in that case, why not go with the candidate who is a racial minority even if he is a Republican?

With a field displaying these dyanmics, given the inevitability surrounding Jindal’s coming victory, and that almost no intra-party competition will occur in any legislative district that has a significant black vote, black turnout probably will be down helping Jindal to run in the black community competitively with his opposition, meaning he is likely to win outright.

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