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Do Partisan Identities Trump Racial Resentment in 2008?

- November 3, 2008

Back in May, I noted the possibility that “in the voting booth, partisan loyalties may prove more powerful than racial prejudice.” Lynn Vavreck has a fascinating post over at the Princeton election blog which suggests this possibility has become reality. She reports on new data that produces this key result:

bq. Once again, as [racial] antipathy increases the probability of voting for Obama decreases. Among people who voted in the Democratic primary, however, the relationship is mitigated by the power of party identification. Nearly all Democratic primary [Clinton] voters are predicted to vote for Obama based on [I would say: regardless of] their levels of antipathy toward blacks as a group. This explains the difference between the two lines below.

Obama Over McCain.jpg

Even the (very few) white Clinton supporters with high levels of racial resentment are predicted to vote for Obama.

Vavreck’s post also discusses a variety of list experiments they have conducted. Some key findings:

bq. Through a series of experiments described below, we conclude that nearly 11 percent of registered voters who are not supporting Obama are voting against him because of his race. Conversely, 12% of registered voters supporting Obama said they were voting for Obama because of his race. Using list experiments we estimate that this number underestimates the true value by a factor of 3. We believe more than a third of registered voters supporting Obama are attracted to him because of his race.

bq. We ran the same type of experiment for McCain’s age and found dramatic results. Many more people list McCain’s age as a reason to vote against him when they can do so anonymously than list Obama’s race as a reason to vote against him.