Stuff white people like: John McCain

Don't give yourselves too much credit, white people -- it's African-Americans and Hispanics who put Barack Obama in the White House.

By Alex Koppelman

Published November 13, 2008 10:35PM (EST)

While everyone's congratulating the country for electing Barack Obama, it's important to remember one thing: The dirty little secret of the 2008 election is that Obama didn't win because of white people. Just like every year, white people in general tended to vote for Republicans. It was the rest of the country that made the difference.

Overall, according to exit polling, 55 percent of whites nationally voted for John McCain, while 43 percent supported Obama. That's very close to what Al Gore got in 2000 and what John Kerry got in 2004.

I know what some commenters are already thinking -- it was those stereotypically racist Southern whites who skewed the numbers, right? Wrong. True, Southern whites voted in far greater numbers for McCain over Obama -- 67-31, to be exact, but according to the Pew Research Center, in only one out of four regions of the country, the East, did whites break for the Democrat. And Southern whites' support for the Democratic nominee was actually up 2 percentage points (or roughly 7 percent) over what it was in 2004.

What really accounted for Obama's victory was an uptick in the African-American and Hispanic share of the electorate, and the tendency of voters from both of those demographic groups to break Democratic in larger numbers than in previous elections. Elsewhere on the site today, I have an article about what Hispanic voters could mean for the country at large over the next few decades -- namely, a very large Democratic advantage in national elections, to the degree that Republicans could get frozen out altogether.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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