Moving Towards a “Post-Racial” Society? Not Really.

Based upon the results from Tuesday’s election, are we in post-racial society? As Joe pointed out in his post after the election, of course not. I will take this one step further: is U.S. society coming closer (if not there yet) to being a “post-racial” society? The exit polling from the election Tuesday suggests not. In fact, a preliminary look at the numbers suggest something rather disturbing: that white Americans are beginning to consolidate their support behind the (white) Republican candidate, regardless of a variety of factors.

When interviewing white college students, a common claim I found was that U.S. society is getting more progressive due to the impending deaths of the old racist whites. However, exit polling from the election and comparing it to what happened in the previous cycle (see here), we find that all of the President’s losses were among various groups of white voters, including young white voters. As Joe pointed out earlier, President Obama lost whites aged 18-29 by a margin of 44 percent to 51 percent. This was a complete reversal of 2008, when then Senator Obama carried the same group of voters by a ten-point margin (54-44). Meanwhile, white women’s support for the white Republican candidate this time doubled its spread from 46-53 in 2008 to 42-56. Meanwhile, Independent voters also flip-flopped from supporting Senator Obama 52-44 in 2008 to Romney 45-50 (note: the first number listed is President Obama’s on the chart below).

Group 2012 2008
Whites (overall) 39-59 43-55
Whites (18-29) 44-51 54-44
Latinos (18-29) 74-23 76-19
Moderates 56-41 60-39
Independents 45-50 52-44
Suburban 48-50 NA
Democrats 92-7 89-10

This rejection of President Obama by white America was quite extensive. We must push back against the MSM to paint a distorted picture of how this man won re-election. Besides young voters and women, Catholics is another group the MSM could generalize and say “Catholics supported Obama by a 50-48 margin…” The reality is that white Catholics overwhelmingly rejected President Obama by a 40-59 margin, while white Protestants were even worse at 30-69. After a far too brief look at the exit polls, I see incredible support for the President coming from Blacks and Latinos (considering that the turnout was actually down from 2008 and 2004, see here), and his campaign did a great job of maintaining support among the Party faithful (he won Democrats 92-7) while convincing enough voters that he cared more about them than Romney did (he won those earning below $50,000 60-38).

What we race scholars should be focusing on is the disturbing gap among our young people (e.g., nearly one-third more Latinos 18-29 supported Obama than whites in the same age cohort), and the consequences of such a major gap.


  1. Bondear

    So the media keeps repeating that the “youth vote” helped elect Obama. However what they don’t tell you is that the youth vote is only 61% white, compared to 70% of the general population.* So when they talk about the youth vote, they are also implicitly talking about a browner vote.

    Another thing to point out is that your link referring to voter turnout is misleading. Turnout as a whole may be down, but Latino and Asian voters made up a record percentage of voters this election. The youth vote aslo made up a record portion of the electorate, but this is likely driven by the increased Latino/Asian turnout.

    What I worry about is Texas. Here’s a “majority-minority” state that is about as white as America as a whole is predicted to be in 2050. According to the media, Texas should be a Democratic paradise. However, Texans voted for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama 57% to 41%. So what’s the matter with Texas, and what’s to say that the whole nation won’t go that way as well?


  2. Mark Williams

    Mr. Foster says it is disturbing “that white Americans are beginning to consolidate their support behind the (white) Republican candidate, regardless of a variety of factors.”

    He goes on to show that blacks “consolidated” behind Obama by a 93-7 margin, while the whites “consolidated” behind Romney by a 55-43 margin. He never mentioned the “factors” again.

    I’m sorry, Mr. Foster, I guess I missed your point. It’s disturbing that a white candidate got a little over half of the white vote, but it’s not disturbing that a black candidate got almost all of the black vote?

    The evidence you cited simply does not support the thesis of your essay.

    I don’t know a single white person that said he/she was voting for Romney based on race. I know lots of people of all races that said they were voting for Obama based on race. I think the data you cited supports this view, and does not support your “disturbing” thesis.

    I find it disturbing that you chose the thesis you did.

    • Seattle in Texas

      It’s funny that so many whites keep saying that they know lots of people of all races that claim they were voting on Obama solely because of race…in this post-racial colorblind society that demands discussions on race are inappropriate, etc. People are too scared to talk about race and racism most generally–at least at a civil and critical level and in a manner in which these discussions should be taking place. Discussions on “race” are more often than not incredibly racist discussions on race–particularly when whites are dominating the conversations…such as white republicans.

      One of the things that has made the Obama campaigns very successful among all groups is the strategy of avoiding any discussions on race and racism. I know this from first hand experience that goes back to being an Obama delegate for the State of Texas. Any discussions on race were quickly extinguished even among democrats to avoid conflict between each other that might risk otherwise creating detrimental friction between allies, and the discussions were re-framed into focusing on the similarities between groups with regard to a common struggle between one another rather than focusing on the differences, etc. My own observations, which is supported by others, is that Obama supporters were emphasizing they were NOT voting on him because of race but rather that he was the best candidate. I’ve not heard one single person suggest they voted for Obama only because of race and the majority of my time, including in my private life, is spent with groups of color.

      Likewise, I’ve not heard one person say they are supporting Romney because he is white…but have heard whites say things as, “I’d never vote for a ni**er to be in office.” I too have seen plenty of incredibly overtly racist and insulting things with regard to President Obama. I’m in a far-right area of Texas too. But they don’t need to explicitly state that’s why they are voting Romney since it’s so explicitly clear they would never vote for a person of color, rather than saying they are voting for Romney because of “race” they explicitly state that they are NOT voting for Obama because of his race. It’s the other way around.

      And further, what does make me think that many republicans did vote for Romney because he’s white without explicitly making that claim, however? Given my location and inevitable encounters with republicans, etc., even at places such as convenience stores, prior to Romney winning the primaries for the GOP, every single republican I heard discussing politics in the open said they did not support Romney at all, found him to be “worse than even Bush”, and expressed discomfort with Romney being a Mormon and not a Protestant Christian. Despite these initial fears openly expressed and open declarations that they would not vote for him during the primaries or for president, which I don’t doubt went beyond Texas republicans, Romney obviously still got significant support from white voters. They don’t have to say explicitly that they voted for Romney because he was “white”–their votes speak for themselves. So yes, many whites have consolidated behind Romney even if that means going against their own best interests, the nation’s best interest, the world’s best interest, their own gut feeling on who is the best candidate for this nation, and so on. But in such an explicit world of whiteness, perhaps white privilege and supremacy, regardless of the negative and detrimental social consequences it causes for many, both in the U.S. and beyond, and is supposed to reign supreme….

      White republicans continuously suggest groups of color voted for Obama solely “because he’s black.” This is problematic because many Blacks (folks with a mother and father who are or identify as Black) do not consider President Obama “Black” at all–biracial, but not “Black” which is taken to be quite different. So this notion of a “Black President” is something that’s coming from the white racist racial frame by whites. And if blacks were voting for Obama solely on “color”, then why haven’t they blindly supported Black republicans who were in office prior to Obama, and during his time in office? If Blacks and other groups of color voted for Obama solely based on color, then why weren’t folks like Jesse Jackson and others politically successful like President Obama?

      And lastly, I’m not sure how reasonable it is to assume that groups of color, as well as women, in particular, would be amped up to vote for Romney given his own positions are outright racist, classist, sexist, nativist, and so on. The best racist whites can do to rationalize this phenomenon is to reduce their rationale to, “I know lots of people of all races that said they were voting for Obama based on race” as if President Obama only got re-elected for his racial status rather than merit and honest public support. And further claims such as these are more than likely lies because republicans tend to live in pretty isolated white worlds with little or no interaction with groups of color at this level of intimacy between groups. And what’s even more insulting, is that given this is the first U.S. president of African ancestry, what is so wrong with African American and Black communities celebrating his wins? Even if he is more centrist than they’d like? Even if it is disturbing that he actively avoids discussions on racial issues? Whites have had nothing but white presidents up to this point…yet somehow it’s wrong for anything other than a “white” person to be in office as the President of the U.S. for most (I’m deliberately using “most” here) and with republican whites in particular…yet even though too often they openly display their bigotry at the same time claim they are not all racist and this has absolutely nothing to do with race…yeah…right….

    • Bondear

      What you’re referring to is the other part of consolidation. Obama won because of huge support from people of color, along with record turnout from Latinos and Asians. If Romney didn’t go out of his way to insult people of color in order to win the votes of the Republican base and white independents, do you think they would have voted this way?

      “I don’t know a single white person that said he/she was voting for Romney based on race.” Let me guess, they said it was because of “taxes” and “welfare” and “big government socialism.” Yeah nothing about race at all. Go read The White Racial Frame, or Racism without Racists, and then try and tell me that no white person you know supported Romney because of race.

    • Seattle in Texas

      Another thing that demonstrates the republicans were basing their votes on “color” or whiteness while not explicitly saying they are voting for Romney because he’s white, is by telling their grown children things as, “Don’t drink the Kool Aid–you’d better vote for Romney”, etc. This was conveyed in several journal entries focused on racial and ethnic relations and current politics, submitted by undergraduate students here in Texas attending college.

      Other students, Black students from inner-city Houston areas largely living in, or coming from poverty, wrote their observations on how FB and twitter blew up with messages from Black friends and family members saying things as, “We get to keep our foodstamps!!” To some degree, this is a real thing as it had been going around that foodstamps were going to be taken away in Texas by the republicans–so a very real concern for anybody living in poverty and hearing these sorts of things. And if living in poverty regardless if one was receiving state assistance or not, Romney was a very scary candidate. But also, whites have been trying to stigmatize President Obama and his supporters by suggesting that they are all poor, uneducated, etc., of color and poor as if there are not any poor whites and all people of color are necessarily poor and receiving assistance…. So the foodstamp and welfare comments were double edged on one hand representing a relief that there is a president in office that does care about communities living in poverty and has no plans of attacking the national safety nets, while on the other simultaneously mocking the republicans who present President Obama as a ghetto welfare president and the Obama supporters as all being welfare recipients, etc. They are well aware of the racism and stereotypes about Blacks in the U.S. in particular, being on welfare. Obviously these stereotypes are problematic because not all Blacks are on welfare…but…some of those who do represent the racist stereotypes addressed these racist stereotypes regularly imposed on them from mainstream society in their initial responses when first learning the news that President Obama won the election.

      In all, if racism is a thing of the past–even Blacks living in poverty who are the butt of the national jokes and these deeply engrained racist stereotypes harbored by many groups, would not be putting such comments up as their first responses to the win during such an important historical moment U.S. history.

  3. daveparry

    While I mostly agree with/appreciate this analysis and the point you are trying to make here, there are two data points that are a little more complicated than this post makes them out to be.

    1. Independents breaking for Romney. It is true that Romney decisively won independents and that Obama managed less support than 2008. Part of this can be attributed to many conservatives who had previously identified as Republican now identifying as independent. The independent electorate in other words had become far more right leaning. It is difficult to tell whether independents who supported Obama in 2008 supported him in 2012. Indeed this is one of the mistakes that the Republican pollsters made, assuming that if they were winning the independents than they were winning the election, without realizing that many of the standard republican voters had moved to the independent category, often to reflect a “Tea Party” affiliation.

    2. While voter turnout is down, it is not as much down as that article suggests. Indeed in some battleground state it is up, all the votes have yet to be counted so the gap will close, and most importantly a chunk of the difference can be explained by low voter turnout in the NE due to the storm.

  4. John D. Foster Author

    Thanks for the comments and questions, everyone. I’ll try to respond as best I can. First off, in regards to the turnout being down from 2004 and 2008, I didn’t mean to imply that it was down for any particular groups, but overall.
    @Bondear, I’m sad to say that I don’t think many in the MSM realize they’re specifically talking about young minority voters when they discuss the “youth vote” (or the “Catholic” vote, if they’ve had or will have that conversation at some point), and regardless of intentions it’s yet another example of whites getting credit for something they didn’t do (i.e., record turnout for a group of voters so often labeled irresponsible and lazy for their usual lower than average turnout). As far as understanding what’s the matter with Texas, Joe could probably speak more to this that I, but like most other sunbelt states, whites are basically voting as a bloc for the Republican candidates. Unfortunately I couldn’t find specific exit polling results from Texas, but I’d be willing to guess the white support in TX is probably similar to what you’ll see in states like Alabama and Arizona.
    @Mark Williams: I’m sorry you are disturbed by my thesis that, simply put, young whites aren’t as progressive as one might think. Sadly, one familiar with recent studies like Picca and Feagin’s “Two-Faced Racism” would not be too surprised by these exit polling data. I also apologize for my “variety of factors” statement, but I (1) put together the post rather hastily, and (2) do I really need to mention examples, such as Romney’s 47% statement and his record at Bain Capital (something his Republican opponents were more than happy to point out, even calling him a “vulture capitalist”), or his secrecy regarding his tax returns? I just didn’t want to get into all that stuff again. Of even greater significance I wanted to highlight was the racial gap among young voters, something supported by the exit polling.
    @daveparry: I did not mean to suggest that turnout was down significantly from the last two elections, just that it was down. As for Romney’s support among Independents, I had also heard about how a lot of them for this cycle were disillusioned Republicans who were most likely going to vote for the Republican candidate anyway.


    Hello my name is Charles. For an assignment in my sociology class I am to comment on an article and relate it to a topic in this week’s reading. This is my first post/blog ever. So I thank you for your responses.
    I went to and commented on the following post “Moving Towards a “Post-Racial” Society? Not Really.” The post was created by Mr. John D. Foster. In his post he talks about Tuesday’s reelection of President Barrack Obama and it effects. He asked is this U.S. society coming closer? He replied “of course not!” He shows this by talking about the 2012 race vote count and how many more Whites this time around voted against the president.
    How does this article apply to the race-related class topic we have discussed? The topic I am choosing to relate this article to is” Quiet racism”. There is an article in my sociology book that talks about it. Quiet racism are people who maintain that discrimination against a person because of his or her race or ethnicity. These are also people who cannot entirely escape the cultural forces that give up rise to racist beliefs. When quiet racism occurs it causes discomfort, uneasiness, and sometimes fears within the individual. Personally I think “Quiet Racism” played a part in losing a lot of the White majority vote this time around. With the economy being in such an unpredictable situation I feel White America is becoming uncomfortable with having a black president in office and feels that a White president would do better. I know this is only one factor of the puzzle, but something we should take a look at. They say this type of racism is often expressed by people in society who consider themselves unbiased or non-prejudice.
    Personally, I feel we are not moving towards a Post Racial Society? They say we are more accepting now a days but what really constitutes that. I think a lot of people just keep it inside and bite their tongues, especially the older generation, so no conflict arises. Race is a touchy subject. I have seen and experienced racism from all different types of races. Race is a universal thing and something I don’t see going away.
    I was not afraid to ask people who they were voting for, especially my friends & family. It wavered between the two candidates. They talked about how one or the other would do better. I asked myself inside “How many of these individuals characterize quiet racism?” While I am glad this election is over and pray for the best for everyone.

  6. belle_tionne

    I don’t think that we will ever be able to say that America is a post-racial society. Not because we aren’t capable of it, but because there are still individuals that portray examples of the backstage theories. The backstage theory is when a person who makes racist omments and gestures when they are in there on house or and sometimes in public, but when someone of a different race comes around they change their entire demeanor. So with that being said, we can say that we are moving towards a “post-racial” society, but at the end of the day there will always be individuals that will always have the same ignorant mentality.

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