Sunday, October 26, 2014

It's Not Black And White

I have spent a lot of time during my career looking at opinion surveys. Employee opinion surveys. Conference surveys.  Market research studies.

One thing is always clear. You typically find consensus in the survey numbers but you never see unanimity in anything when human beings are involved. One person is going to love something and another is just as likely to hate it. There are just too many diverse views and perspectives among human beings.

For example, I recently spoke at a conference where there were ten speakers and the attendees were asked to rank the sessions from 1-10 on how interesting the talk was to them. My speech was ranked 2nd overall on the day. Most people ranked it highly giving it a very good consensus score. However, the distribution of the scores went from 1 to 10. Some people loved it but others didn't think it was worth anything to them.

The same is true in an advertising campaign that I am overseeing right now. Readership surveys in the magazines the ads are running in show that it generally is the highest-rated ad. However, looking at the verbatim comments in the survey it is clear that some people love the ad and some hate it. That is just the way of the world when dealing with human beings and their opinions. You just have to accept that everyone is not going to like everything. In fact, that diversity of opinion is what makes the world so interesting.

Considering that experience and perspective, I continue to find it mind boggling whenever I look at exit poll data regarding the votes of black voters. It is as if there is no other candidate than a Democrat on the ballot. I am not sure Putin or Castro ever received such overwhelming majorities of votes in any "election" they participated in.

It defies all logic that any one group of people could vote in such a monolithic manner when you look at the diversity of issues involving politics. Issues like abortion, national security, tax policy, immigration, foreign policy, jobs policy and the like.

You don't see it in any other demographic group so why do we see it with African-Americans?

I wrote about the demographic breakdowns in the 2012 Obama/Romney race recently here.

Blacks gave 97% of their vote to Barack Obama.

The best Romney could do was 86% with his fellow Mormons.

I can understand 86%. I don't fathom 97%.

This is especially the case when you look at some of the other demographic splits.

Men-Romney 52%, Obama 45%
Women-Obama 55%, Romney 44%
High School graduate- Obama 51%, Romney 48%
College graduate- Romney 51%, Obama 47%
<$50,000 income- Obama 60%, Romney 38%
>100,000 income- Romney 54%, Obama 44%

There are male and female African-Americans who are high school and college graduates, poor and rich. How is it that their vote is identified almost solely by race and not by other factors?

When you look at some of the vote numbers in detail from 2012 it gets even crazier.

Consider the total votes from several of the precincts in my home county of Hamilton County in Ohio.

Look at these votes from the inner city of Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Precinct 13A-  Obama 1,080 votes, Romney 5 votes
Cincinnati Precinct 15C-  Obama 703 votes, Romney 4 votes
Cincinnati Precinct 22C-  Obama 859 votes, Romney 8 votes
Cincinnati Precinct 24H-  Obama 336 votes, Romney 1 vote
Cincinnati Precinct 24I-  Obama 407 votes, Romney 2 votes
Cincinnati Precinct 26H-   Obama 455 votes, Romney 2 votes

In those 6 precincts Obama got 99.5% of the vote.

Compare that with the precincts in Indian Hill which is generally considered to be the bastion of wealthy, white, privileged Republicans in Cincinnati. In fact, the zip code that includes Indian Hill donated more money to Romney than any other in the entire state of Ohio.

What were the vote totals in Indian Hill between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney?

Indian Hill Precincts-  Romney 3,434, Obama 1,406

In those 6 precincts Romney got 71.0% of the vote.

I can understand 71.0%. I don't fathom 99.5%.

It is not just Obama either. Look at some of the vote results from 2008 with other Democrat Senate candidates who are now running for re-election.

In North Carolina, Kay Hagan won the black vote 96-1 with blacks making up 18% of the vote total. Hagan lost the white vote by 18 points.

In Louisiana, Mary Landrieu won the black vote 96-2 with blacks making up 29% of the vote total. Landrieu lost the white vote by nearly 2 to 1.

All of this would make sense if we saw the African-American community prospering and advancing due to Democrat policies. The Democrat Party would practically be out of business right now but for the Black votes they get. However, what are Blacks getting for those votes?

All of this might also make sense if we had seen that Democrats were responsible for the most significant legislative advances for equal rights for African-Americans over the years. However, that is not the case either.

Consider these historical landmark pieces of legislation that were voted on by Congress over the years that were so important to the advancement of African-Americans.

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which abolished slavery.
100% Republican Support, 23% Democratic Support

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which gave citizenship to freed slaves
94% Republican Support, 0% Democratic Support

The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which gave the right to vote for all
100% Republican Support, 0% Democratic Support

The 1964 Civil Rights Act
80% Republican Support, 64% Democratic Support

African-Americans lined up to vote after passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act

With African-Americans today, it seems that their vote for Democrats is as simple as black and white. It is cut and dried but you must ask why?

If you look at the facts, it's not black and white.

Will this ever change?

This is one issue that I will continue to look at with great interest in the future. Will Barack Obama be responsible for another generation of Black Democrat voters or will he be responsible for the end of a trend that has lasted almost 50 years?

UPDATE (10/27/14): Herman Cain asking the same questions of Black voters in his most recent column.

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