Articles and Analysis


White Men With Obama Since The Beginning

Topics: 2008 , Barack Obama , Exit Polls , Hillary Clinton

Much was made this week of Obama's performance among white men in Virginia. Indeed, his support with white men was seen as both the key to Obama's Potomac Primary victories, as well as a sign of broadening support to include those formerly in Clinton's base. Others are skeptical, even worrying that while male superdelegates might tip the scale toward Clinton.

In fact, Virginia was neither the first state (nor even first Southern state) where Obama bested Clinton among white men. Nor was it the state where he won this group by the largest margin. Obama has been doing well with this group since the beginning of primary season.

Below is a table of the Clinton/Obama vote among white men, from exit poll data from every contest thus far. The table is ranked in descending order, with the state showing the largest Obama margin at the top.


Compared to Virginia, Obama did even better with white men in Utah, New Mexico, and California (setting his home state of Illinois aside). This pattern is also not a function of election type or overall outcome. Obama led with white men in states with primaries and states with caucuses, and in states that he won and states that Clinton won.

Further, the country doesn't exactly fall into an obvious North/South divide. While Obama tends to do less well with white men in the South, he still led with the group in Georgia (in addition to Virginia), and trailed with the group in New Jersey and Missouri.

Finally, it's also worth reminding ourselves about the contest that started it all - the Iowa caucuses. Among white men in Iowa, Obama garnered a 10-point lead over Clinton, and an 8-point lead over Edwards.

** (Thanks to Joe Lenski for correcting the original graph by sending the official numbers from Iowa.)



I just saw a headline on drudge: obama takes lead in Texas. I was so happy and when I checked it was ARG. Damn, this is the worst polling firm this cycle and now I am worry more than ever that we are behind. one thing I've learned from ARG, if they said you are leading that means you are trailing and vice versa.

SO I am waiting for Survey USA to see if my doubts are well founded.



This is all not to mention the caucuses without exit polls in Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Washington, and Maine. The large proportion of white voters in most of these states along with Obama's wide margins of victory would suggest that Obama almost surely won white men in most of these contests - and probably won white women in several of them.


Agreed, jr1886. There's also a new Texas poll today from IVR that shows Clinton leading by only 8, which seems more rational.

Rundown from Election Inspection



On Utah's white male statistics: In case you haven't heard, this is one of the most white bread places on earth. My assumptions would be as follows .

1. Most of Utah is LDS, and the church is still trying to make up for 150 years of refusing the "priesthood" to blacks. Women are inherently second-class in the culture. so even democrats are more comfortable voting for a Obama than Clinton.

2. Bill Clinton's presidency did nothing for Utah democrats. Business was booming already, and the political climate was unchanged. So Clinton doesn't have her usual grateful constituency.

3. Salt Lake City, an island of blue in a sea of red, has liberal democratic mayors. But the statewide party compromises liberal ideals with gutless legislators and a congressman who's moderate at best. To the liberal base, Clinton as just more of the same.

4. 43% of Utah's 2008 primary voters were democrats. 26% of Utahns voted for Kerry in 2004. It thrills us to think we Utah democrats might even be noticed. Even though Obamemtum hadn't picked up steam by Feb. 5, we largely went for the more exciting figure.

Frankly, we'd vote for any Democratic candidate. Heck, we'd probably vote for an actual Democratic mule. After all, mules are bright, pull their weight, tell you exactly what they think, and take the path that makes sense no matter what.



Penile unity...


Simple correlations are deceiving, particularly among broad demographic groups such as "men." I do not think that this analysis proves one way or another if "Obama has been doing well with this group since the beginning of primary (sic) season." I could go into much detail picking this analysis apart, for example, pointing out that Obama won a greater share of the white crossover vote in the metro Atlanta area, which explains the different survey results between the Deep South states of Alabama and Georgia.

The trend I think is most signfiicant to explaining Obama's momentum is his apparent increase in support among white men age 40-60. As we have moved past the initial nomination contests, Obama cannot rely on young voters to carry the day for him anymore, which is why his increased support among older voters is key to his continued success.



I would say that the north/south divide is pretty evident, with a couple of caveats. Virginia and Maryland -- Mason-Dixon Line notwithstanding -- aren't as southern as they used to be. Also, like Georgia, they have major metropolitan cities that other southern states lack, and that tend to foster more liberal political views. Taking into account that a fellow white male was still siphoning votes in South Carolina, it's pretty clear which direction the deep South went. You've got Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, and Arkansas all in the bottom 5 for Obama.


Margie Omero:

Michael: If Obama led among white men before Virginia, then i think it's fair to say he frequently did well with white men before Virginia. My point--that the coverage mistakenly identified this finding in Virginia as a new development--is true regardless of which subgroups of white men are involved.

I have yet to see any exit poll results among white men 40-60. The consortium exit polls show only race x gender, or race x age. Do you have other polling you can share with us?



Most Utah Democrats are not Mormon, or are disaffected Mormons, so extrapolating out LDS theology onto Democratic voting patterns is useless.

As for Texas, Obama has 3 weeks to campaign there, will probably have another big win in Wisconsin, and the national tracking polls universally show him overtaking Clinton. She will be broke and have the stench of defeat. Texans and Ohioans (?) will know they are voting for her final defeat or to let her go on. Many will decide that it's time to let her "pursue other interests", especially as she starts to seize on undemocratic and divisive tactics as her only hope of winning.


I don't think you can get a fair read looking at one demographic alone. For example, using white men without more context yields the fact that where the difference was double digit, Obama won 5 of the 7, losing only the two with the highest percentage of Latino voters.(Though the highest percentage Latino state, NM, was awfully close.)

Of the 8 where Hillary had a double-digit edge in white males, 7 WERE Southern states. She won 5 of the 8. He won the two with at least a 20% Black population and edged her out in Missouri despite no clear advantage in males or Blacks.

So in general, it seems the racial and gender and regional dynamics have played a key role, with rare exceptions. If your point was only confined to the fact that the white male vote has moved all over the place, that's a valid observation. But even there, region has mattered, as the 8 where he had more than a 3% edge in white males, none were from the South except Virgina, a border state with 19.9% of the population Black.


Daniel T:

I think that Margie's essential point is spot on: the media is trying to create some newsy action out of something that as been going on for some time. Obama has always done well with white men. Consider the fact that out of the contests so far, only four states has Obama got less than 30% of the white male vote and in no state has he done worse than 24%. So it's important to keep in mind that in in the south it is fair to say that Obama can still attact white males; just not as many as Hillary. Which raises the question as to whether race has anything to do with it at all. 100 years ago the percentage Obama would have got anywhere was ZERO. So let's keep our heads on our shoulders and realize that we are quibbling at matters of minor degree. I think if you did a regression, you would find that race contributed very little to the way that white people voted.


Chris G:

Daniel T, that regression result is highly unlikely given Obama's performance by race. if you look at each subgroup across states, many variables seem to have an independent contribution to the results: if you vary any of race, age, gender, income independently of the other 3 factors, you get a pretty big change in %

i'm just struck by the amount of variability. Obama wins MD white males by only 3 points by VA by 18?? i have to say i'm skeptical. i'm sure there was a difference, but that large? either it's subset variability, or other factors like proportion of white male voters who were Ind (since VA has no party registration).

one of the problems is that poll subsets have much higher MOE since sample sizes there are much smaller, subgroup MOEs should really be reported as well.

regression should definitely be used a lot more than it is though, i see way too much fetishizing of subgroups w/out considering other covariates


Margie Omero:

A few more thoughts...

Even though it's in the table, take the Arkansas results with a grain of salt, given HRC's ties to the state.

I think given how well Obama does with black voters, it would be a mistake to say race doesn't play a role in the primary vote. We also see women vote disproportionately for HRC, even, as is the case among black women, they are simply a little more likely to vote for HRC (but still give Obama a large margin). But given that the results among white men are more varied, it's even harder to draw any real conclusions as to the "why."

As far as regression & "fetishizing of subgroups" go: I agree! Unfortunately, I don't have person-level data. I just look at the same exit-polls online as everyone else. Now if someone wants to give me access to some top-secret datafile...


Nadia Hassan:

One thing about white men--his support among white men may be influenced substantially by their education and income. Gary Langer found that to be the case in his post on white men.


Ric Hernandez.:

About Michigan and Florida, the Democratic party can do the Solomonic thing by dividing the delegates into two,giving half each to Clinton and Obama. This way Michigan and Florida wouldn't lose and the division would be fair to both candidates.

Ric Hernandez.


Here's what everyone has missed: the white numbers, male and female, are skewed because of the large number of independents and Repubs voting in many of these states, notably Virginia where they were 30% of the vote. Logic tells you that these are heavily Starbucks Independents and Republicans (what kind of Republican votes in a Dem primary? not a normal one), as David Brooks might call them. And that they are heavily white and we know they voted heavily for Obama. This analysis might show something very different about the white vote if the analysis looked at Democratic voters - HRC won 59% of white Dems in Va.



The truth is white men have been in power and they would rather give that power to a black man, even if they are uncomfortable with it than give power to a woman. I have been in the country long enough to say that there is more sexism here than racism, but it is played so subtly that people don't see it. I do not believe that the white men who voted for Obama is because they were charmed by his charisma. Big BS. The subconscious sexism is so strong - because they know a woman will be more reasonable, compassionate and fair and may not play the same political games! (atleast not the ones they know). It saddens me that women don't see it and but they keep whining about making less salary, having less power, etc.


Annette Keller:

The cognitive behaviors, including the irrationality, undue optimism and projecting faith in abilities and traits onto Obama that he has not yet demonstrated he has, are all consistent with people being in love. These are the cognitive behaviors of infatuation and idol-worship. I.e. white men are prone to developing "man crushes" on Obama. This seems to strike randomly at men who are exposed to Obama's speaking, even by video. Since Rush Limbaugh has so much Obama political porn on his website, I suspect that he has also developed a secret man-crush on Obama.


Annette Keller:

The cognitive behaviors, including the irrationality, undue optimism and projecting faith in abilities and traits onto Obama that he has not yet demonstrated he has, are all consistent with people being in love. These are the cognitive behaviors of infatuation and idol-worship. I.e. white men are prone to developing "man crushes" on Obama. This seems to strike randomly at men who are exposed to Obama's speaking, even by video. Since Rush Limbaugh has so much Obama political porn on his website, I suspect that he has also developed a secret man-crush on Obama.


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