All of this writing and data analysis is a lot of work! So after more than five years of posting, I've finally launched a Patreon to help pay the bills.

2/6/20

A lot of black voters don't support Democrats

We're back at that stage in the discourse cycle where some leftists threaten to withhold their votes from Democrats - and Democratic loyalists, in turn, accuse them of white privilege. The argument here is that black voters overwhelmingly support Democrats, and that white people only have the luxury to withhold their vote because they have less at stake.

There are a lot of problems with this argument, but here I just want to concisely take on the very first premise: that black voters overwhelmingly support Democrats. A few data points:
  1. The US Census Bureau reports that black voter turnout dropped to 59.6% in 2016.
  2. Exit polls show that 89% of black voters who turned out backed the Democrat.
  3. Felony disenfranchisement impacts about 7.4% of voting age black voters.
  4. Other forms of disenfranchisement - onerous registration and identification laws and tactical polling station closures and relocations, for example - are notoriously difficult to quantify systematically, but need to be noted.
With these four considerations in mind, we can make a pretty simple chart:

We can only say for certain that a slight minority of voting age black Americans supported Democrats in 2016. If we assume that disenfranchised black felons would break like other black voters for Democrats, that adds another 6.6%, bringing the total up to a majority 55.71%.

So the decisive question is how many non-felon black voters wanted to vote but were prevented by other voter suppression tactics. Simply put, the systematic data we would need to pinpoint that number just isn't there. To place this in perspective, 37.41% of the voting age black population means about 12 million votes; in 2012, the ACLU estimated that voter suppression probably impacted about 5 million votes total. So if we assume similar figures for 2016, and assume that all of the votes suppressed were black votes, that still leaves about 20% of black voters who voluntarily stayed at home. One can quibble with that figure, but it seems plausible to me.