Byron York engages in a perennial conservative media stunt — breaking down poll numbers between blacks and whites to make the point that Democrats wouldn’t be so popular if it wasn’t for the 14th Amendment. Or something. I’ve really never figured this out. (Some of the less tactful analysis I’ve seen on this was David Horowitz’s 1998 comment that “the black community votes like a communist country.”)
[Obama's] sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are. Asked whether their opinion of the president is favorable or unfavorable, 49 percent of whites in the Times poll say they have a favorable opinion of Obama. Among blacks the number is 80 percent. Twenty-one percent of whites say their view of the president is unfavorable, while the number of blacks with unfavorable opinions of Obama is too small to measure.
Wow! That’s really something! What could possibly explain this if not racial solidarity? Except …
The Obama Effect even spills over to the subject of Vice President Joe Biden. Forty-four percent of white respondents say they approve of the way Biden is handling his job, while 81 percent of blacks approve.
Wait — why is the gap between white and black voters even higher for Biden than it is for Obama? Is this an Obama Effect or is it the preference of black voters for the Democratic Party? Let’s pick a random 2008 race between two white candidates: the North Carolina race between now-Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and then-Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.). Seventy-five percent of voters were white, and Dole won them by 18 points. But 19 percent of voters were black, and Hagan won them by 95 points. Obama only defeated Sen. John McCain by 90 points among black voters in North Carolina (while losing whites by 29 points).
So there are two explanations here. Explanation A: There is an Obama Effect that is dazzling black voters to such an extent that they are supporting white Democrats even more strongly than they support Obama. Explanation B: Black voters strongly support the Democratic Party, and have since the 1960s, for a number of complicated reasons. I think Explanation B is more likely, which is problematic for Republicans if they, like York, equate the “actual” support for Obama’s policies with “support from whites.”
Update: One quick note: I contrasted Biden’s approval numbers with Obama’s favorable numbers, and obviously those are calculations of two different things. However, the white-black gap on Obama’s job approval is 34 points, even bigger than the 31-point gap on the favorable numbers. York puts that number near the end of the column, possibly because the 62 percent job approval number that Obama enjoys from white voters make it even stranger that York is trying to argue that the guy’s not that popular.
And one more quick thing: Part of York’s argument is that black support is higher than white support for some of Obama’s specific polices, on the economy (higher by 36 points), on foreign policy (higher by 32 points), on “bringing real change in the way things are done in Washington” (higher by 36 points). That still doesn’t explain why the usual racial gap in party support matters here, unless the implication is that black voters are dazzled and supporting whatever Obama says. That’s not a criticism you often hear of, say, white evangelical voters vis-a-vis Republicans.
2nd Update: I have more on York’s column here.
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