Wednesday, June 11, 2008

African American Turnout in the Big Battlegrounds

The biggest states that are currently battlegrounds are Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. The percentage of African Americans in these states are all smaller than the states we talked about in our last post. The percentage of African Americans in Florida is 16%, Pennsylvania 11%, Ohio 12%, Michigan 14%. They would have the largest influence in Florida because it has the largest population of African Americans out of these states and many African Americans did not vote in 2004 while African American turnout in Ohio and Pennsylvania was higher.
In 2004, about 900,000 African Americans in Florida which made up about 12% of the voters there voted 86%-13% for Kerry. There are about 2.6 million African Americans in Florida and about 800,000 elligable African Americans did not vote. If Obama wants to win Florida by only using high African American turnout he would probably need between 60%-70% of the African Americans who did not vote to go to the polls on election day. Although McCain will get a boost from turnout of elderly and Hispanics, there will probably not be many new voters in the districts with lots of elderly residents. The turnout in those districts was very high in the 2004 election. For example, in the Florida 5th district which has the highest percentage of elderly residents in the nation (a bit under 40%,) had about 370,000 people vote there. The good side for McCain is that districts like the 5th are growing very quickly so he could get the new voters there to the polls. The congressional districts with large populations of African Americans do not have very high turnout. In the Florida 23rd district which is 51% African American had about 210,000 people vote there in 2004. Assuming about half of the voters there are African American, there are about 100,000 elligable African Americans who did not vote in 2004. There are many new voters Obama can get to the polls but he must do well with Jews and get the 18-29 year olds to the polls.
In Pennsylvania, a large turnout of African Americans will not be as influential as one in Florida. There are about 1.3 million African Americans in Pennsylvania and about 700,000 of them voted in 2004 and Kerry won them 84%-16%. This means there are only 200,000 elligable African Americans who did not vote in 2004. Kerry won Pennsylvania by 145,000 votes so Obama needs to turnout enough African Americans to offset any gains in the working class by McCain. Since the potential number of new African American voters in Pennsylvania is low, they might not be the main factor in giving Obama a victory here but if the vote count is exceedlingly close, they will have made the difference.
In Ohio, 10% of the voters in 2004 were African American and they voted 84%-16% for Kerry. A bit under 600,000 African Americans out of the 1.4 million in Ohio voted in 2004. Subtracting the number of African Americans too young to vote leaves around 370,000 elligable African Americans who did not vote in 2004. Bush won Ohio by 119,000 votes and Obama's percentage among African Americans definitely would increase over Kerry's which means that a bit under 1/3 of the African Americans who did not vote in 2004 would have to vote in 2008. The African American turnout would probably be not as influential here as it would in Florida. Many of the African Americans here vote, for example, 290,000 people voted in the Ohio 11th congressional district which is 55% African American.
In Michigan, about 600,000 out of the 1.4 million African Americans voted in 2004. Kerry won them 89%-10%. This means that there are a bit under 400,000 elligable African Americans in Michigan who did not vote in 2004. Like Florida, the heavily African American congressional districts here do not have as high turnout as Ohio. The 14th congressional district of Michigan had 265,000 voters in 2004 and this district is 61% African American. The problem for the Democrats is that the population of this district declined by 44,000 in the past six years. Obama won Michigan by 166,000 votes and McCain will definitely try to make inroads among the independents and the working class. The African American turnout Obama brings may just be able to offset McCain's margins in other parts of the state.
We do belive that even though Obama can get the highest increase in African American turnout in Florida, we think it is the state Obama has the least chance of winning out of these four. The elderly in Florida will go to McCain more strongly than to Bush and there are not many evangelicals there. Pennsylvania and Michigan are tied for the state that Obama has the best chance of winning. Ohio is in the middle. The levels of African American turnout will probably be historic and if Obama wins, the turnout will have propelled him to victory.
If you have any thoughts about this post, please feel free to comment it.

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