White Flight

If you want to see political vindication of the Republican decision to pursue a strategy of racial grievance, portraying Barack Obama as an un-American outsider with a "deep-seated hatred of white people," you need only look at Pew's latest analysis in the shift in partisan identification:

Notably, the GOP gains have occurred only among white voters; a 2-point Republican edge among whites in 2008 (46% to 44%) has widened to a 13-point lead today (52% to 39%). In sharp contrast, the partisan attachments of black and Hispanic voters have remained consistently Democratic.

While Republican gains in leaned party identification span nearly all subgroups of whites, they are particularly pronounced among the young and poor. A seven-point Democratic advantage among whites under age 30 three years ago has turned into an 11-point GOP advantage today. And a 15-point Democratic advantage among whites earning less than $30,000 annually has swung to a slim four-point Republican edge today.

Yet, the Republican Party’s growth has been limited in two important ways. First, the steep gains in GOP leaning that helped the party in the 2010 midterms have not continued, as the overall balance of partisan attachments has held steady in the first half of 2011. Second, while more independents say they “lean” toward the Republican Party, the GOP has not gained in actual party affiliation since 2008 – just 28% of registered voters, in both years, call themselves Republicans. Instead, the growth category continues to be political independents, with a record high 34% of registered voters choosing this label in 2011.

I can't help but imagine that these numbers would be different if the economy wasn't still struggling, and that the Democrats' ability to retain the loyalty of blacks and Hispanics isn't to some degree reliant on the fact that Republicans have alienated nonwhite voters. It would be hard for Rush Limbaugh to claim that the bad economy was part of Obama's plan for racial "payback" against whites if unemployment wasn't so high. For the reasons outlined in the last paragraph, the trend may yet be reversible, but who knows. 

CNN meanwhile, has a poll showing a drop in Obama's approval ratings--driven in part by disaffection among liberals.

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