Why Racism Does Not Explain Obama's Falling Approval Rating

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

In a piece at the Guardian that explores why the president is losing his footing among some voters of color, statistician Harry J. Enten says Barack Obama's falling approval rating has more to do with the economy than racism.

Moreover, Obama is also seeing his numbers drop among minorities. Gallup with its large sample sizes has Obama's net approval falling by about 10pt since the election among among nonwhite voters. That is, Obama's problem isn't only whites without a college degree.

The only group that is staying steady with Obama is whites with a graduate degree. My own theory is that this likely is as much about the economy as education. Whites with at least a college degree happen to be the wealthiest and less likely to be affected by an economy increasingly viewed by the voters as weak.

Pew actually has Obama gaining ground with whites making at least $75,000 since the election. His net approval among them is -13pt compared to losing them by 19pt against Romney. Among all voters, Gallup has Obama's approval declining by only 1.6pt among those making at least $75,000 versus 4.6pt overall. 

Thus, racism definitely played some role in determining Obama's margins in 2012, but his current slide probably has little or nothing to do with it. Obama is losing ground amongst whites who aren't southern and among all races. His declines are worst among individuals making less the median income – possibly because of an economy viewed as weak. The losses among whites without a college degree specifically fit well with longer term trends that Republicans can exploit in future non-Obama elections.


Read Harry J. Enten's entire piece at the Guardian.

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