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Delving Deeper on Black Turnout

A little over a week ago, Behind The Numbers took a look at Obama's ability to turn red states blue simply by boosting black turnout over 2004 levels, and found that if all else remained the same, few states would flip without monumental increases.

Even assuming 95 percent of African Americans would vote for Obama (in line with the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll and above the 88 percent who voted for John Kerry) as we did here reduces the challenge only minimally. And regardless, Obama faces a challenge in registering additional black voters, let alone getting them to the polls.

The analysis used for today's article examined the turnout increase necessary among African Americans in states that went for George W. Bush in 2004, where blacks made up 5 percent or more of voters in 2004 (based on National Election Pool exit polls), and where the total black turnout required to win would not be greater than the Census's 2006 estimate of the black voting age population (in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Texas, the increase would have exceeded the total black population). The analysis held constant the number and distribution of votes among non-African Americans.

Looking again at Georgia (the primary example in the previous post): To overcome the 548,105 vote margin Bush held in the state in 2004, about 790,000 additional black voters would have to turnout if the proportions held the same as in 2004 (about 96 percent of the more than 825,000 African Americans who voted in 2004). Should Obama win 95 percent of black voters, about 528,000 more black voters would have to cast ballots (an increase of 64 percent).

The table below shows the boost in turnout required in both scenarios: Obama winning the same proportion of black voters as did Kerry in 2004, and Obama winning 95 percent of black voters. In both cases, victory is within closer reach in states that were swing states already (Ohio, Florida and Nevada).

Turnout increase among blacks needed to win if Obama wins...
           Kerry's share       95 percent
          of black voters   of black voters
Ohio            20%                0%
Nevada          28%                8%
Florida         56%               23%
Virginia        58%               30%
N.C.            73%               36%
S.C.            81%               41%
Louisiana       64%               48%
Mississippi     70%               51%
Georgia         96%               64%
Arkansas*       65%               65%
Missouri        88%               67%
Tennessee      142%              116%

*Kerry won 94 percent of black voters in Arkansas in 2004.

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  July 28, 2008; 11:10 AM ET
Categories:  Exit polls  
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I am amazed by what Senator Obama has accomplished. I have been in this country for 5 years and when I arrived I was struck at how poor and uneducated most blacks are. I could never figure out why most had children out of wedlock, sold drugs, and were in jail. I suppose it is the slave metality from generations ago but at some point they will have to take responsibility. I think that is the reason Senator Obama appeals to so many whites because he isn't 100% black. He has a black face but the mentality of a white person. That makes the vote palatable and they can feel good about themselves. I doubt many of these white voters would go for an Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson - just too black and they are for more representative of the black American - not Barack Obama.

Posted by: Rahiq Syed | July 28, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

McCain deserves another look. We are going to have a Democratic Senate and you got to have a leader that knows how to solve problems by accommodating enough of them to get the job done. Even if he has lost some grey matter over the years he has still got the moxie to break loose and show his independence. A good example is the way he led the Gang of 14 to break the courts log jam a few years ago.

Posted by: Buck TX Ind | July 28, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Rahiq Sayed:
It is obvious from your comment that you have really only been in his country for 5 years!
And you believe in 5 years blacks have suddenly become less poor, more educated, sell less drugs and less in jail? You are really ignorant. You really do not know america. It is obvious you came here with various biases from wherever you came from.
You are a "typical" immigrant who thinks they understand america after 5 years of living here.

Posted by: Buddy | July 28, 2008 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Using 2004 Bush v. Kerry numbers is silly. You have to compare current polling (which uses traditional shares of the AA vote since likely voter screens aren't going to account for poor blacks) and turnout potential.

It's clear that record turnout has the potential to boost Obama to victory in Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia (if Barr stays viable).

I agree with the overall thrust of this post though. While massive voter registration efforts have a huge potential to pad Obama's popular vote margins and help downticket races, they're occuring in states that will be difficult to win (Georgia/NC).

Posted by: Obamafan | July 28, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Rahiq Syed:
Looking further at your comment- more ignorance.
Sharpton and Jackson are too black and typical black americans! Most black americans are in jail, selling drugs and having children out of wedlock! Most black americans have slave mentality!
I don't even know where to begin to address your comments, except to advise you to read and travel more.

Posted by: Buddy | July 28, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

White, black, yellow, tanned, old, young - we are Americans. Who our parents are or were does not change a thing. We are Americans and we will speak and be heard in the November election!

Posted by: DenisR | July 28, 2008 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I agree that it's a poor idea to *predict* outcomes on the basis of 2004, but using 2004 data is smart for looking at a baseline. 2004 wasn't terribly different from 2008 - highly contentious issues, an ongoing war, etc. Nationally, the big issues are just even bigger now.

What this kind of analysis misses (or neglects to mention) is the change in behavior of other demographics, particular Democrats and Republicans.

2004 Democrat votes were much more "I want Bush out," than, "I want Kerry in." Even though turnout was higher than in any previous election for either party, there were many disinterested Democrats and centrists who didn't feel Kerry (or Bush) was worth voting for.

At the same time, Bush was still very popular among Republicans, and Karl Rove orchestrated the gay marriage bans in many states, which drew social conservatives like moths to the flame. Without the additional votes Bush got from those who showed up to support the bans, Kerry would have won enough swing states to take the election.

This time, Democrats have a candidate they (largely) really like, but Republicans have the compromise candidate. Sure, McCain is well-regarded, but he doesn't tow the line enough to summon all the Republicans to the polls in the same way Obama can do with Democrats.

There's also the lack of a nice wedge issue for the Republicans to pull out otherwise infrequent voters.

This all spells lower turnout for Republicans and higher turnout for Democrats. That's *before* consideration of how particular sub-groups of each bloc are likely to vary their behavior.

Posted by: Sarlax | July 28, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

This table would be much more useful if we had some statistics about what voter turnout and voter registration is/was among blacks in the states listed. If 60% of eligible blacks voted in 2004, then a 30% increase is hard to get. If only 40% voted, then a 30% increase is much easier to accomplish. What are we looking at, here? Should I go spend my vacation volunteering in a voter registration drive in Georgia, or not?

Posted by: martimr1 | July 29, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to slap anyone and everyone who talked up how evil George W. Bush and the GOP was in 2004 -- saying it was John Kerry and the Dems who had to be elected -- only to turn around and reward in 2008 GOP John McCain instead of Dem Barack Obama. Especially for any such individuals who would not back McCain had Hillary Clinton won her party's nomination.

You know -- hypocrites.

My prediction is that I won't need to waste such energy. Barack Obama will be elected in November as the next president of the United States.

Posted by: D | August 2, 2008 7:41 PM | Report abuse

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