The Racist Vote

Yesterday Politico ’sRoger Simon wondered how much of the vote Obama would lose by virtue of his race alone. Simon citesan AP poll in which eight percent of voters said they would not vote for ablack man, but guesses that figure is low—it’s really the number of people who admit they’re racist. He ballparks the number at around 15 percent.

Tonight’s exit polls provide a lens, however blurry, through which to view the racist vote. CNN asked voters whether the race of the candidates was important tothem. Twenty percent of voters said “yes,” and of that group 59 percent brokefor Clinton.Meanwhile, voters who said “no” split between Clinton and Obama 50-50. So ifyou set aside the group that considers race important, the candidates tie.

To zoom in a little, CNN also breaks down the voters by race. Of the whites who said that race is importantto them, 75 percent broke for Clinton.Keep in mind this group is pretty small—only 13 percent of voters overall. But thinkabout it: If you’re white, you tell pollsters that race helped determine who you voted for, and youvote for the white candidate, it’s not a particularly huge stretch to conclude that you’re aracist. (The corollary, of course–and this is where the argument gets messy–is that black voters who said they voted for Obama because of race are also racist. CNN doesn’t have numbers on this.)

For a while now, more Clintonvoters have said they would not vote for Barack Obama in the general than Obamavoters said they would not vote for Clinton.(Last month, a national poll showed that one in four Clintonvoters would vote for McCain if Obama won, whereas one in five Obama voters would do the same if Clinton won.) It’s impossible to quantify exactlyhow much of that disparity you can chalk up to racism—especially given thatmany of the people Obama may have alienated in non-racial ways (the “bitter”comment, for example) happen to be white. But I wouldn’t be surprised if itcontributes.