In the Democratic Race, Whither White Men

Feb 11, 2008 12:26pm

Tomorrow’s primaries may present an opportunity to look at the preference of white men for Obama over Clinton in some contests. While far from consistent in primaries, it’s been an important factor in their support profiles: Where white men favor Obama, he's far likelier to win.

Mason Dixon’s polling has Obama winning 41 percent of whites in Virginia and 40 percent in Maryland; that’s essential to his overall lead in these two states, since in neither of them are African-Americans predicted to have a large enough share to carry Obama themselves (as in Louisiana on Saturday, and in some previous Southern states). That suggests Obama could win white men on Tuesday, as he has in seven of the 23 previous states for which we have data. (Clinton's won them in 11, and they've tied in five.)

In some states to date where Clinton has not won white men – California and Arizona – there’ve been enough Hispanics to make the difference for her. In some others (New Hampshire, Massachusetts) there have been few blacks, and enough white women to outweigh white men. But in states with significant but not vast numbers of black voters, and few Hispanics, white men are critical. Per the table below, Clinton’s won the primary in eight of the 11 states where she won white men, a 73 percent success rate; but in only four of the 12 where she didn’t win them, 33 percent.

When we look at issue preferences, we find white men generally less attuned to Clinton across a range of parameters. In aggregate data, white men have been 17 points less apt than white women to say Clinton would be the best commander-in-chief; 17 points less apt to call "experience" the most important attribute (it's a strong Clinton quality), 17 points less apt to say Clinton would do the most to unite the country and 14 percent less apt to call health care their top issue (also strong for Clinton).

Naturally, affinity voting plays a major role. White women are twice as apt as white men to call the sex of the candidate important in their vote, 35 percent to 17 percent. And white women who call the candidate's sex important have favored Clinton over Obama by a huge 78-17 percent margin; white men who call it important also have favored Clinton, but by a much closer margin, 54-35 percent.

Addendum: With thanks to Ron Brownstein of the National Journal, there’s a further point of differentiation here – the additional role of socioeconomic status. Education provides the clearest view: Combining all primaries to date, white men who’ve attended college have gone to Obama over Clinton by 51-38 percent, while white men without a degree have gone the other way – 52-31 percent for Clinton; he does 20 points better, she 14 points worse, among college educated white men vs. non-graduates. There’s a similar division among white women, albeit a little less pronounced – among those with college degrees, Obama is +14 points, Clinton -10, compared with those who haven’t earned a degree. There’s less of an education gap among nonwhites.

Table's below. One note – apart from Iowa and Nevada we have no data for caucuses; just primaries. Caucuses, with their very low turnout, can be something of a different animal.

            Vote preference             among white men         Clinton Obama Edwards  WinnerClinton:Arkansas   71%    24            ClintonAlabama    70     27            Obama New Jersey 58     39            ClintonTennessee  58     32            ClintonOklahoma   55     32            ClintonMissouri   55     41            NAMichigan   54     38*           ClintonNew York   52     43            ClintonLouisiana  51     31            ObamaFlorida    45     27     25     ClintonNevada     46     40     10     Clinton

Tied:Mass.      48     49            ClintonDelaware   47     47            ObamaArizona    46     45            ClintonGeorgia    46     48            ObamaS.C.       28     27     45     Obama

Obama:Utah      29      64            ObamaIllinois  37      59            ObamaN.M.      38      59            NAConn.     40      57            ObamaCalif.    35      55            ClintonN.H.      30      38     20     ClintonIowa      23      33     25     Obama


*uncommitted
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