The Race Factor Redux

  • May 08, 2008
  • By Anthony G. Greenwald and Bethany Albertson

As this year's primaries and caucuses have progresssed, we have been analyzing polling data to see if race still plays a role in American politics. Our research suggests that race is, indeed, still a significant factor in determining electoral outcomes, but that it showed up in surprising ways in tallies from some of the states holding Democratic primary elections so far this year. The results of last Tuesday's Indiana and North Carolina open primaries provide further evidence of the effects we observed earlier.

The discrepancy between pre-election polls in North Carolina and the actual vote was, given the relative size of the state's black population, almost exactly as we had predicted from the previously observed discrepancies between pre-election polls and actual vote outcomes.

Indiana, however, deviated slightly from what our observations of earlier primaries suggested: Clinton received about 7% fewer votes than the analysis had predicted. In other words, strictly on the basis of Indiana's heavily white population, Clinton's margin of victory should have been significantly larger than the two percentage points actually recorded and larger even than the 5-point margin that pre-election polls predicted on average.

Read the complete analysis The Race Factor Redux on the Pew Research Center Web site.