Some Notes on Voting, Ethnicity, Religion and Race

March 13, 2019 9:38 a.m.

Over the last few days, as part of his continued attacks on Jewish Democrats, President Trump has insisted that American Jews are streaming out of the Democratic party. We have a century of statistics on these issues. In fact, the exact opposite is happening. In 2012, 2016 and 2018 the percentage of Jews voting for Democrats has gone up in each cycle, from 69% in 2012 to 79% in last November. But I thought this was a good opportunity to look at Jewish voting demographics in the context of the increasing racialization of voting in general.

Here is the breakdown going back to 2008. I haven’t included midterms except for the most recent election. Exit polls aren’t the only or necessarily the best way to count vote breakdowns for ethnicity and race. But they’re a good broad indicator. And they provide good baselines of comparison.

2018: D 90%, R 9%
2016: D 89%, R 8%
2012: D 93%, R 6%
2008: D 95%, R 4%

2018: D 77%, R 23%
2016: D 65%, R 27%
2012: D 73%, R 26%
2008: D 62%, R 35%

2018: D 79%, R 17%
2016: D 71%, R 23%
2012: D 69%, R 30%
2008: D 78%, R 21%

2018: D 69%, R 29%
2016: D 66%, R 28%
2012: D 71%, R 27%
2008: D 67%, R 31%

As you can see, Jewish voting for Democrats has gone up significantly over the last several years. But it’s probably best seen in the context of overall stability. African-Americans notched a few points higher for Democrats when Barack Obama was on the ballot. But again, the pattern is one of overall stability. Roughly 90% of African-Americans vote Democratic.

Hispanic voters also show a remarkable stability over this period – basically well within the likely margin of error for the methodology. (It’s always important to remember that Hispanic and Latino are ethnic and lineage identifications which include some people who identify as white and others who don’t.

What really stands out here is the transformation of the Asian vote. First, it’s important to note that even more than Hispanics, the ‘Asian’ vote in the US includes people with greatly different cultural and religious backgrounds. It includes people whose ancestors came from East Asia and others from South Asia.

You can see in these numbers that 62% of Asian-Americans voted Democrat in 2008 and fully 77% last year. But even that doesn’t quite capture the transformation. The Asian-American community, which of course was significantly smaller in past decades, used to be a highly Republican constituency. As recently as 1996, Republicans won the Asian-American vote. Just four years before, in 1992, Republicans won 55% of the Asian-American vote.

Why is this? Some of it is certainly new immigrants, often from different countries, coming into the “Asian” demographic category and changing the group. But at least as much, it is a reaction to the changing character of the Republican party, one that is increasingly tied to being white. You can see this in states like California where voting in Asian communities which used to be reliably Republicans has swung heavily in favor of Democrats.

Barrack Obama’s presidency is often seen as a turning point for the Asian-American vote. But a better way to put it is that the Obama presidency is a period in which white racial identity became such a decisive force in Republican party politics.

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