A number of commenters and even political leaders have attempted to downplay the issue of race in Davis. A lot of people are more comfortable shifting the issue from one of race to socio-economic status. But the data in the political arena say otherwise.
I found this interesting result from a PEW Research poll.
“Almost half of white Americans say the USA becoming a majority nonwhite nation would ‘weaken American customs and values,’ a Pew Research Center survey from earlier in 2019 said.
That number is 46 percent, almost half of all whites.
That is a huge number and comes amid increasing evidence that suggests race – not economics, not economic status, and not economic fear – was the driving force behind Trumpism.
We looked at a number of elections in Davis to see if they met the legal threshold for RPV (Racially Polarized Voting).
As defined under the law: “RPV exists when there is a difference in how members of a protected class vote versus members not within the protected class.”
We have noted that as the percent of Latino votes increases in a precinct from 4 percent to 20 percent, it impacts electoral outcomes. In looking at the Partida-Carson race, as we have noted, it moves from Carson +5 to Partida +20. In the Feinstein-De Leon race it moves from Feinstein +22 to Feinstein +10.
Is it overly simplistic to simply evaluate races on the basis of percent Latinx voters in a given precinct? Yes. Are there other variables? Probably.
But I think anyone criticizing these conclusions needs to bear something else in mind: race may be the most important factor in politics. By attempting to discount that in Davis, you have to argue that Davis is different.
But is Davis different? I don’t think so. If we analyze the more liberal and more conservative areas in Davis, we will actually see that, while Davis is much more liberal than the rest of the country, the basic patterns still hold.
And if we look at the national picture, the dominant force is not socio-economic status, it is not education level and, if anything, ideology is informed by race – not independent of it.
To understand just how powerful race is, let us look at some national level data that is readily available, having been used to analyze the 2016 presidential election.
In 2012, Obama defeated Mitt Romney in a relatively closely contested election. That disproves the RPV theory of politics, right? Not so much. Obama won, despite losing among white voters by a 59-39 margin, in part because he scored huge majorities of Blacks, Hispanics and even Asians.
Moving to 2016, a big reason why Hillary Clinton lost (aside from just being a bad candidate) is that somewhere between 6.7 million and 9.2 million whites switched from Obama to Trump.
At first you are wondering, how is it possible that whites who voted for a black president could be motivated by race to vote for Trump? But I think people see this too simplistically.
“Clinton suffered her biggest losses in the places where Obama was strongest among white voters. It’s not a simple racism story,” the New York Times’s Nate Cohn wrote on the night of the election.
This was not an economically driven vote as some have surmised. A multi-author study published in the Public Opinion Quarterly found that racial and immigration efforts, not economics, explained the shift in white voting – in other words, this really was about racism.
That study found that the voters who switched to Trump scored highly on measures of racial hostility and xenophobia – and were not especially likely to be suffering economically.
“White voters with racially conservative or anti-immigrant attitudes switched votes to Trump at a higher rate than those with more liberal views on these issues,” the paper’s authors write. “We find little evidence that economic dislocation and marginality were significantly related to vote switching in 2016.”
The research here shows that, in 2016, Clinton won by 80 percent among Blacks and by 36 among Hispanics, but lost by 21 (around the same margin as Obama) among whites.
When you look at socio-economics you don’t see the same impact. On education, Clinton won by 9 percent among those who were college graduates and lost by 8 among those with some college or less – interestingly enough, this marks a change from a few years ago.
But the key point is that Hillary Clinton did a lot better with people who were more educated, which is the opposite of what you might expect.
More curious, however, is that socio-economic measures like education level are actually dwarfed by the race effect.
While all voters with some college or less voted for Trump by 8 percentage points, when you look at white voters, that number is an astounding 39 percent.
The education gap is there – voters with a college degree still voted for Trump, but only by a 4 point margin.
In other words, college education matters, but race actually matters more.
We have somehow trained ourselves that it is not race but socio-economic status that drives the modern world. But what we are seeing, in both voting patterns and opinion surveys, is that is untrue.
Race is not the same thing as socio-economic status for the purposes of voting behavior. And, in fact, race is by far the bigger factor. In fact, race and socio-economic status are driving voter behavior in opposite directions. Poor and less educated whites are voting conservatively. Better educated whites are more liberal than their less educated counterparts, but still less liberal than people of color – Asian, Hispanic, or Black.
Given how big a factor race is nationally, why are we expecting things to be different in Davis? Davis as a whole is more liberal than the nation as a whole, but the patterns are not that dissimilar. When you want to talk about other factors being more important – socio-economic, education, party identification, ideology – remember, the underlying factor there is race underlies the latter two, and it trumps the former two.
The sooner we acknowledge this, the better we will be as both a community and a nation.
—David M. Greenwald reporting