White Voters Disenchanted With Obama?

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Barack, Obama, Polls, Race

In the past week, Obama’s approval rating has finally slipped below the 50% mark in Gallup’s daily tracking poll.

Gallup Daily_ Obama Job Approval

The reason why?

His support among white voters has fallen from 61% to 39%. And that could be a big problem as he looks towards 2012.

Or is it such a big problem? Or a completely manageable one?

Looking at Gallup’s exit polling from the 2008 election, we see that Obama lost to McCain among white voters by double digits.

True, Obama’s approval among whites is still 5 points under the 44% who threw their support behind him last November, but that’s the story…Obama’s “approval” has really only dropped 5 points among whites who voted for him.

Long story short, if these voters weren’t planning on casting a vote for him anyway in 2012, well, there was little he could have done in the first place.


This entry was posted on Saturday, November 28th, 2009 and is filed under Barack, Obama, Polls, Race. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

15 Responses to “White Voters Disenchanted With Obama?”

  1. mw Says:

    More gosh darn racists.

  2. Nick Benjamin Says:

    Don’t pay too close attention to these polls. Political insiders do, but that’s because there’s not much else for political insiders to discuss.

    From what I can tell Obama’s doing pretty well. His major accomplishment (the stimulus) hasn’t gone great. His other major initiative (health care) is a tough slog to say the least. The economy isn’t doing well. People are freaking out about Afghanistan, and Iraq still isn’t a very positive story. All this is happening and the man still has almost everyone who voted for him’s support.

    I’d say that’s a good sign.

    Especially given that at least one of those things will turn around within a month. Health reform will pass. Period. If they need Lieberman they’ll dump the public option. That won’t be good policy-wise, but in terms of politics it will help Obama.

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  4. Frank Hagan Says:

    You are equating voting statistics with approval polls? They are not the same.

    President Obama enjoyed higher approval ratings than the percentage of people who voted for him. All Presidents do in the beginning. In President Obama’s case, some polls had him above 80%. The average of all polls was 65% in January, 09; still much higher than the 53% of the popular vote he obtained.

    I haven’t compared President Obama’s decline in approval ratings to his predecessors yet, but he starts from a very high point. With only 53% of the popular vote, he still had 80+% favorability ratings in the beginning (before he took office). That is very common in American politics.

    IIRC, popularity under 50% is about average for a President entering his second year. Its one reason the party that holds the White House almost always loses seats in Congress in the next mid-term election; only two Presidents haven’t in the last 110 years; FDR and GW Bush (right after 9/11).

  5. superdestroyer Says:

    What the statistics really show is that no matter how bad the economy is in 2012 or what has happened, the Democrats will still be able to count on overwhelming support from blacks, Hispanics, and Asians.

  6. Nick Benjamin Says:

    @Frank
    Approval and voting are never exactly the same, but there is a very strong correlation between an approval rating and a candidate’s electoral support.

    This is why nobody is surprised when an incumbent with approval under 50% loses.

    And until there’s an official 2012 GOP nominee approval rating is the best number us political junkies have.

    @superdestroyer
    If true your comment implies one of two things.

    One: Unlike whites non-whites are total idiots who mindlessly follow the leader. Otherwise they’d turn against Obama when their rational, independent-minded white neighbors did.

    Two: The GOP is actively anti-minority.Thus almost nobody in minority groups will support Republicans no matter what.

    If you believe 1) is true you are, by definition, a white supremacist. If you believe 2) is true you have just accused the Republican party of being white supremacist.

    It should be noted this comment is directed only at superdestroyer. The rest of the folks who are unhappy with Obama have not claimed Obama’s relatively high approval ratings are caused by racial stubbornness.

  7. kranky kritter Says:

    Here’s the thing, Nick. Identity politics are what they are. Is it really morally criminal to point out that black voters will continue to support Obama pretty much no matter what, within reason? Whether Asians and Hispanics will also do so is more suspect. But its pretty plausible. We don’t really know how strong such effects will be on a national level because Obama is our first minority President.

    You’re the one who put implications in Superdestroyer’s mouth. After all, he didn’t say any of the stuff you are saying he is implying. Perhaps your perception of these implications speaks as much of YOU as of him. Perhaps you are overeager to perceive racism and defend against it.

    Many Americans practice identity politics. You should know by now that pretty much only white males perceive the luxury of not doing so. Blacks vote for black candidates, hispanics for hispanic ones. Women vote for female candidates. It happens. Over and over and over and over. Let’s not pretend it doesn’t.

    What I believe is that many Americans cast votes based in substantial part on ethnicity and gender. Data supports this. I don’t think this makes any ethnic group idiotic. It makes them ethnocentric. Minorities in particular believe that they have gathered their existing political strength by voting collectively in an ethnocentric fashion. White folks vote ethnocentrically too, but they don’t seem to think that this behavior has helped form their political strength.

    Here in MA we have a frontrunner for Ted Kennedy’s seat, Martha Coakley. She has a ton of built-in support from women voters which accounts for an awful lot of her lead in a field comprising her and 3 white men. It’s impolitic to point it out, but it;s right there to see. Gender is in this case a pretty obvious distinguishing factor, especially given that the candidates are politically indistinguishable as MA liberals. There are all busy trying to convince us that they are more pro-jobs or more pro-healthcare reform or more committed to economic reform than the others. Fact is, the substance of the campaign rhetoric is so idiotic, generic and useless for distinguishing purposes that its hard to imagine how gender could fail to be a positive distinguishing factor. (By the way, this doesn’t bother me. It might if I felt it was preventing a better candidate from getting elected. But then, if one of the 4 candidates had a better distinguishing point, gender would be less of a distinguisher.)

    I’m sorry, but I can’t fail to notice this stuff for the sake of political correctness. I also can’t fail to notice that when a guy named Sam Yoon runs, he gets lots of votes in Chinatown. Ethnocentric voting is part of who we all are as Americans.

  8. Frank Hagan Says:

    Nick, Justin compares the exit polling of the election to the opinion poll just completed and comes to a different conclusion than the Gallup organization itself:

    Blacks’ support for Obama has averaged 93% during his time in office, and has been at or above 90% nearly every week during his presidency. Thus, part of the reason Obama’s support among nonwhites has not dropped as much as his support among other groups is because of his consistent support from blacks. (With Hispanics’ approval rating down five points, greater declines among Asians, Native Americans, and those of mixed races account for his total seven-point drop among nonwhites.)

    The story is not that “Obama’s ‘approval’ has really only dropped 5 points among white who voted for him” as Justin asserts. The story is that, except for black voters, all groups have registered at least a 5 point drop in ‘approval’ rating. Among other minorities, the drop is even greater when the hispanic vote is taken out.

    President Obama is still a very popular President, but as always happens, the bloom is off the rose for most voters. Black voters remain a reliable and solid Democratic voting block that can be relied on by Democrats.

  9. Nick Benjamin Says:

    @kk
    If he hadn’t added Asians and Hispanics into the mix I’d agree with you. I didn’t make him do that. Apparently he didn’t even look at the data, which indicates Obama’s support is dropping among non-black minorities as quickly as it’s dropping everywhere else.

    If you can find a third possible conclusion from superdestroyer’s statement by all means present it. I thought about it and I simply can’t find another conclusion. If superdestroyer genuinely believes blacks, Asians, and Hispanics will never turn on Obama he must believe they have a reason for not doing so. This is a simple fact. Either he believes they are incapable of rational thought (and is thus a white supremacist), or he believes they have a rational reason for not turning on Obama. The only rational reason I can think of for Asians to mindlessly support Obama is a strong belief Republicans are white supremacists.

    Ergo either superdestroyer is a white supremacist himself or he believes the GOP is inherently racist. Period.

    If he’d pointed out blacks won’t turn on Obama that would just be common sense. In an environment where “please don’t let him be black” is a common reaction to the news that some asshole killed people rational African-Americans absolutely love having one of their own be President. It’s especially useful when trying to convince young black men to do their damn homework instead of staking their futures on a career in the NBA.

    BTW, whites use identity politics a lot more than anybody else. But the identity they use is not just racial. A classic example is the crap John Kerry had to go through when somebody snapped a photo of him windsurfing. You see it at a lower level with ethnic politics. Poles elect Poles, Finns elect Finns, etc.

    Nobody uses the entire white race routinely largely because it would be pointless. It’s easy to see that Kerry is more East Coast than Dubya, but a white off between the two is probably a tie. That might change with Obama’s election. I hope it doesn’t simply because white racists can do a lot more damage than anybody else’s racists can. Especially since a white racist majority would probably have a lot of small states supporting it, and you need 38 states to amend the Constitution.

  10. kranky kritter Says:

    BTW, whites use identity politics a lot more than anybody else.

    That’s preposterous. How could you possibly measure that? If you can figure out a way to precisely define the concept, and then measure it, and give me data, I’ll change my mind. In common parlance, identity politics refers to practicing politics on the basis of identifying first and foremost with some large group on the basis of ethnicity or gender or so on. Usually these identity groups have a strong political action committee or group of them which supports common interests based on this identity.

    I think you are blurring the notion of identity politics to the point where it becomes a useless concept. If a windsurfing photo relates to identity politics, then you leave me wondering what parts of politics is NOT identity politics. Deeply felt philosophical and political views can have a strong bearing on personal identity, so what’s left?

    I see your point, but I think you need to re-think it if you want to preserve the notion of identity politics as useful for understanding electorates. Maybe you don’t, because it tends to bear negatively on the progressive coalition. I think it’s a conceptually useful idea. Like many others, it’s quite ope to thew sort of deconstruction you’re suggesting.

  11. Frank Hagan Says:

    Ergo either superdestroyer is a white supremacist himself or he believes the GOP is inherently racist. Period.

    Really? Only those two alternatives?

    I find it surprising you would make that statement, unless you know him personally. It is an ad hominem attack.

    There are surely other possibilities. You could be jumping to a conclusion, he could have meant to type blacks and hispanics and not asians (who sometimes vote Republican), or he could have been mistaken. Last time I checked, being mistaken didn’t make you a racist.

  12. mw Says:

    Superdestroyer is an interesting case. He/she makes this identical point frequently on many blogs including, here, TMV, my blog and others. He is kind of a one trick pony in that regard.

    I won’t pretend to know his heart, but my initial impression was the same as Nick’s, and, in fact, at one point I disinvited him from a comment thread for this reason.

    That said, the argument he makes repeatedly has become mainstream, and you can find variations being flogged by both Republican and Democratic, liberal and conservative pundits.

    It is usually phrased in different terms, but always predicts the marginalization of the GOP as a political force, due to the “permanent realigment” of electorate demographics. I don’t buy it, but many do.

  13. Nick Benjamin Says:

    @kk

    That’s preposterous. How could you possibly measure that?

    I didn’t. It’s an impression. And unless you got some numbers of your own…

    If you can figure out a way to precisely define the concept, and then measure it, and give me data, I’ll change my mind. In common parlance, identity politics refers to practicing politics on the basis of identifying first and foremost with some large group on the basis of ethnicity or gender or so on. Usually these identity groups have a strong political action committee or group of them which supports common interests based on this identity.

    Two words: Glenn Beck

    The Christian Coalition is another example. They claim to be non-racial, but it’s hard to believe a truly “non-racial” group of evangelicals is lily-white.

    @Frank
    True ad hominem attacks are not based on evidence. I presented evidence and a (IMO convincing) case.

    Really? Only those two alternatives?

    You got a third?

  14. milo Says:

    I wish I had the actual data set to tease this apart more. The straight crosstabs make the race case look pretty compelling, but I wonder what an analysis of variance (ANOVA) would identify as the variables to best predict Obama approval.

    I’d also really like to see household income in the dataset. Gallup had an April article that reported double-digit declines in approval ratings from higher income households (> $60K). Given the correlation between income and race, I wonder how that plays into the declining rating in the overall white sample.

  15. Slarti Says:

    Obama probably has bottomed out among white voters by now. The economy will get better, and unless there is some calamity (hopefully not), then his ratings among white folks should rise.

    Slarti’s political forum

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