White Men: Still Substantially for McCain — Why?

The Gallup polling outfit reports that the racial-group breakdown of polled registered voters, most recently (Sept.29-Oct. 5, 2008 polls), was thus:

Whites —– Obama (42%) McCain (50%)
Blacks —– Obama (89%) McCain (2%)
Hispanics — Obama (64%) McCain (26%)

They also reported that white men were now for Obama at 38% and for McCain at 55%, with white women tied at 46% for each candidate. Last June their polls showed a breakdown for 36-52% for white men and 41-46% for white women. This suggests more of a shift to Obama among white women than among white men.

Clearly, this election continues to have an important racial dimension to it. If it were up to whites right now, McCain would have a substantial victory. Yet whites make up only 75-80 percent of registered voters. Still, past national elections suggest that Obama needs to get at least 40-42 percent of the white voters to win the election, and to have significant turnouts of African American and other voters of color at these Gallup-indicated levels to win the election.

It is clear too that once again the Republican Party is the “white party” in the US, as given the near-Depression economic meltdown and extremely failed Republican presidency (worst since 1920s?) whites should overwhelmingly favor a more liberal (even socialist) interventionist party right now, like they almost certainly would in most European countries. Why is there such a reluctance among the majority of white men to support Senator Obama? The white racial frame?


  1. White men do not appear to be substantially more pro-McCain than are white women. A little but not by much.

    Something interesting that your post brings to mind is the psychological machinations of white Democrats in the South. Your statement, ‘It is clear too that once again the Republican Party is the “white party” in the US’. I’ve been to Dem Party meetings and watched whites recoil when I (a black male) have made what to me was a common sense, obvious declaration of the obvious.

    While I agree with your statement regarding the Republican Party, in the southern US, whites see the entire political domain as belonging to them as a race, Republican or Democrat. White Democrats, always centering local and state electoral strategies around making the Democratic Party attractive to white men (whom you correctly point out to be overwhelmingly politically conservative) always succeed in making southern Democratic Party politics not much different from national Republican Party politics, a white man’s game.

    Again, as you point out, even in the midst, not the wake, of financial and economic collapse, southern whites in both parties remain to the right and at best the center, showing very little criticality towards Bush’s $700b corporate package. Obama and McCain agree on the huge corporate package and judging by the meager, almost nonexistent outcry, southern whites have hardly any problem with it. Depressing.

  2. Joe

    Ingemar, good points, I agree, many southern whites are very heavily affected by the traditional white-racist framing and that is why they have kept the Dem. Party relatively conservative in recents year, and why they constantly try to appeal to white men and women. And that framing is why many whites fled the Dem Party after the end of Jim Crow– they feared the black voters coming into the party.

  3. M.

    I would be interested to see a comparison to similar by race breakdowns for prior presidential elections–like Kerry/Bush and Gore/Bush. What percentages of white voters voted for Gore, for instance? Exit polls from prior elections should provide some data on that we could compare to the numbers in this post. I have no idea how it would turn out, but I would be interested to know if Gore got much more of the white vote than Obama is getting in current polling.

  4. Joe

    M, good issues. I have never seen a really thorough analysis of white voting in prior elections, just brief references to less than half of white voters for Dem. candidates since LBJ. Has anyone seem a thorough analysis of all this?

  5. JDF

    Yes, the Republican Party is indeed the “white party,” whether they want to overtly admit it or not; and the election results of recent cycles confirms this: in 2004, Bush won whites overall 58-41; he won white men 62-37, and white women 55-44 (http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/pages/results/states/US/P/00/epolls.0.html). In 2000, Bush beat Gore 54-42 among all whites; 60-36 among white men; 49-48 among white women (http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2000/results/). Thus, if Obama can hold his ground he should win; the question is, can he? To think of the things presumably working in Obama’s favor, including cons like Kristol & Will pointing out the obvious, like the poor campaign they’re running and how these overtly racist campaign tactics will likely backfire with independent whites (esp. white women). Yet the national polls appear to be tightening a bit again!


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