why obama may lose the popular vote in one simple picture

A few days ago, I noted that Obama is slightly behind in the polls mainly because of the South. If it weren’t for the South, Obama would easily have about 51% of the vote in rest of the country. Kieran went back and compared the October Gallup polls in 2008 and 2012 to produce this picture:

You’ll hear all kinds of post-hoc explanations of the election outcome in November. But they’re probably wrong unless they start with the fact that the South really, really, really hates Obama more than the rest of the country for some inexplicable reason.

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Written by fabiorojas

October 28, 2012 at 12:33 am

Posted in fabio, mere empirics

9 Responses

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  1. Is it the south, or is it rural areas versus urban?


    Paul Adler

    October 28, 2012 at 12:35 am

  2. Inexplicable, eh?


    Sam R.

    October 28, 2012 at 1:14 am

  3. If I did a regression , And included south as a variable, I bet I would get a significant result for South even controlling for rural area



    October 28, 2012 at 1:27 am

  4. Because Southerners became ~12% more racist over the last 4 years? Sure, why I’ll buy it….
    But that doesn’t change how callow this kind of smug insinuation makes the author look.



    October 28, 2012 at 1:44 am

  5. To reiterate Sam R.’s point: inexplicable?? Does that mean that you don’t have any tentative thoughts on why that would be the case?

    @JM345 Perhaps the South has always been racist but difference boils down to a widened enthusiasm gap leading to a better conservative turnout in 2012? Even if not that, I dont see why the suggestion that it has something to do with racism should be seen as “smug”. Quite frankly, that doesn’t seem very thoughtful at all.


    Soft Scientist

    October 28, 2012 at 2:36 am

  6. 2008 was very, very unusual. It’s rare that an incumbent party is saddled with two unpopular wars AND a major recession. Toss in McCAin very poor campaign, and you get a really suppressed turnout for the GOP.



    October 28, 2012 at 3:11 am

  7. It’s probably more appropriate to talk about an answer to a “how” question, rather than “why”.



    October 28, 2012 at 7:30 am

  8. OK, so a few things: in support of Fabio, yes…2008 was unusual in many ways. Tom Pettigrew had a nice piece in 2009 discussing how race and a “perfect storm” basically set Obama up for the election ( Pettigrew’s piece also builds off Vincent Hutching’s work on the polls and public opinion surveys of that election year (good stuff, I might add).

    Now, to JM345’s comment. Did the South become 12% more racist? Nah, that stuff has been there under the surface according to many social scientists the last 30+ years. However, the fact that Republican and Tea Party politicians said outright that they would do anything to make sure that Obama fails no matter how bad the economy would get, and since he hasn’t made “a lot” of progress over his four years compared to the expectations of him, people believe it when the Right states it over, and over, and over, and over, and over in the media. This plays into modern conceptions of racial prejudice (laissez-faire, racial resentment, etc.) that, as a black man, the stereotypes of his work ethic and priorities are supposedly not in line with “mainstream America” (read: middle-class whites). This allows many in the South (and across the US) to point and say he’s a bad guy trying to ruin America (enter Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh, and the rest of talking heads). Add that into the “what have you done for me lately” trend in the US-version of individualism and it’s fairly easy to see why Obama’s support in the South has fallen in 4 years, particularly among whites. (And just to note…no, you can’t compare the polarization of the 2008 election with the past, and say “stop pulling the race card, it’s been worse.” Check out Tesler and Sears’ volume on the 2008 election and its comparisons with the past:


    hillbilly sociologist

    October 29, 2012 at 12:03 am

  9. […] My hypothesis is that the popular vote is only close because of extreme anti-Obama sentiment in the south. […]


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