Nineteen Percent of Whites: Friends Will Not Vote for Black Man

Charles M. Blow has a rather chilling oped piece on racism and the coming election in the August 8, 2008 New York Times. He first points out that this should be an easy year for the Democratic presidential candidate, with all the failures of the Bush administration, especially the war, and Senator Obama’s demonstrated fundraising ability. But a July New York Times/CBS News poll underscores the problem we have accented several times on this blog, the racism factor (inaccurately called by the euphemism, the “Bradley factor”) few white journalists or social scientists are willing to discuss:

When whites were asked whether they would be willing to vote for a black candidate, 5 percent confessed that they would not. . . . [And, more importantly] They asked the same whites if most of the people they knew would vote for a black candidate. Nineteen percent said that those they knew would not.

Blow points out this could be a large number of people if these white voters have many friends. (And are the white respondents really talking about themselves?) His analysis then accents what he calls the

murky world of modern racism, where most of the open animus has been replaced by a shadowy bias that is difficult to measure. As Obama gently put it in his race speech, today’s racial “resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company.” However, they can be — and possibly will be — expressed in the privacy of the voting booth.

Blow notes that if the percentage of whites who will not vote for a black candidate is just 15 percent, that is a larger percentage than the percentage of black voters or young voters in the electorate. So McCain has the racial edge–especially considering that Senator Obama’s percentage of black voters is high but about the same as previous white Democratic candidates. Actually too there is nothing mysterious or murky about all this, and the white bias is relatively easy to measure if one goes backstage and records what whites actually say and do there, as we have pointed out from social science data on the backstage blatant racism common in white communities, previously on this blog.

And the most revealing finding for the election in the survey is this:

Just as many white independents as Republicans said that most of the people they knew would not vote for a black candidate, and white Democrats were not far behind. Also, remember that during the Democratic primaries, up to 20 percent of white voters in some states said that the race of the candidate was important to them. Few of those people voted for the black guy.

One response to my previous blog analyses about whites not voting for Obama because of the backstage racism and their vibrant white racial frame is that the “racists are all Republicans any way.” This survey strongly suggests that view is false. The same proportion of independents reported that most of their friends will not vote for a black person, and a significant proportion of Democrats report the same. In an election where the typical winner wins by just 1-4 percent of the total votes cast, the 19 percent of independents who say most of their friends will not vote for Senator Obama is a chilling figure. It would appear that the odds are against him (always have been?) because of that old and still very strong white racial framing of Black men.