Historical Comparison: Where Have All the Clinton Voters Gone and What Does Race Have To Do With It?

 Posted by  Michael Tesler

Recently, Marty Gilens asked about the association between racial resentment and vote choice in this election compared with previous presidential elections, as a comment on Lynn Vavreck's previous entry on this blog.

A historical comparison of the effects of racial resentment on vote intention does indeed provide considerable analytical leverage in figuring out whether Kinder and Sander's racial resentment scale is tapping into anti-black affect or is merely the product of non-racial ideological conservatism. As the figure indicates, the striking difference in effects of racial resentment between the all white presidential contests of the past and early McCain vs. Obama trial heats (the 2008 data is from March strongly suggests that racial resentment is in fact measuring racial predispositions. All else being equal the average effect on GOP vote intention of moving from least to most resentful between 1988 and 2004 was 25 percentage points. Moreover, we see below that the effect of racial resentment on McCain vs. Clinton trial heats fits perfectly in place with this average impact. The McCain vs Obama line, however, shows a 72 point difference between least and most resentful, with the other model variables fixed at their means. While Obama is doing noticeably worse than previous Democratic nominees among the most racially resentful, we see the biggest disparity taking place on the left-hand side of the spectrum. This makes intuitive sense. For if all else really is equalized by the controls, Obama in 2008 is the perfect storm for racial liberals. Not only do they get they get to vote their affective orientation towards African-Americans, but they get to retrospectively vote the Republican Party out of office too.

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