Welcome to the Party: America’s Established Political Parties By Race

(Historical/Analysis)

The year is 1976, an election year in the United States between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, an America with an African-American population around 11.1% and Caucasian at 83% while other minority groups are in the single digits. Of that percentage, as a group 9% of the black American population voted, 83% for Carter (D) and 17% for Ford (R) while 89%* of whites voted with 48% for Carter (D) and 52% for Ford (R). Total voting age population (VAP) was approximately 152,309,190 versus those registered to vote (REG) at 105,024,916 or 68.96%. However, only 53.55% or 81,555,789 of the voting population turned out to vote in the 1976 primary election (see chart 1 and link below). Carter won in 1976 with an electoral college vote of 297 and a popular vote of 40,825,839. Southern states including Texas all went with Carter along with most east and mideastern states while the entire western half of the nation (From California to North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma) voted for Ford along with a few eastern and mideastern states. Ford has an electoral vote of 240 and a popular vote of 39,147,770. According to a study by the U.S. Census, Voting and Registration in the Election of November 1976, it was reported:

Although more people voted than ever before, the actual voting rate in the 1976 Presidential election was lower than in any Presidential election since 1948. The ratio of official votes cast for President to the voting age population was 54 percent, down from 55 percent in 1972 and a high of 63 percent in 1960.

Below are the years 1960 to 2016 election percentages of VAP, REG, and Turnout (Chart 1):

YearTotal V.A.P.Total REG*% REG of V.A.P *Turnout% TO of V.A.P.
1960109,672,00063,854,789 *58.22%68,838,20462.77%
1964114,090,00073,715,818 *64.61%70,644,59261.92%
1968120,328,18681,658,180 *67.86%73,211,87560.84%
1972140,776,00097,283,541 *69.11%77,718,55455.21%
1976152,309,190105,024,916 *68.96%81,555,78953.55%
1980164,597,000113,036,958 *68.67%86,515,22152.56%
1984173,936,000124,184,647 *71.18%92,652,84253.27%
1988182,628,000126,381,202 *69.20%91,594,80950.15%
1992189,044,000133,821,178 *70.79%104,426,65955.24%
1996196,498,000146,211,960 *74.40%96,277,63449.00%
2000205,815,000156,421,311 *76.00%105,405,10051.21%
2004215,694,000174,800,000 *79.00%122,295,34556.70%
2008225,499,000TBDTBD131,313,82058.23%
2012235,248,000TBDTBD129,085,40354.87%
2016245,502,000TBDTBD136,669,27655.67%
Chart 1 Voter Turnout in Presidential Elections

By 2016 according to reported exit polls, the African-American group percentage was at 12% with 89% for Hillary Clinton (D) and 9% for Donald Trump (R). The White group percentage was at 70% with 37% for Hillary (D) and 57% for Trump (R). And additionally:

2016 electionRaceGroupClintonTrump
 Hispanic116628
 Asian46527
 Other35636
Chart 2 2016 Exit Polls
2016 ElectionCandidatePartyElectoral VotesPopular Votes
Donald J. TrumpRepublican30462,980,160
Hillary R. ClintonDemocratic22765,845,063
Gary JohnsonLibertarian04,488,931
Jill SteinGreen01,457,050
Evan McMullinIndependent0728,830
Chart 3 2016 Presidential Election

Compared internationally by members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) the United States has a low voter turnout rate at 26 out of the 32 member states; a phenomena that appears to be the new normal for the U.S. since 1972 at a consistent range of 50-58% of VAP except in 1996 when that percentage dipped below to 49%.

Reviewing the U.S. population today by 2019 Census data, Black/African-American’s population has reached 13.4% while a census dilemma concerning what constitutes white and whiteness continues. At present, hispanics can either file as hispanic or hispanic white along with groups of European, Middle Eastern, and North Africa descent. Yet, Arabic groups along with other decedents dispute the association. The “white alone” population increased to 76.3% yet “white alone, not latino or hispanic” is at 60.1%. Part of the problem relates to who is counted as white and specific groups that choose to call themselves white.

Accounting for the voting percentages by either the DNC or RNC, African-American turnout is consist and driven by successful turnout rates averaging 11% (2004 election), 13% (2008 election), 13% (2012 election), and as previously mentioned 12% (2016 election). Since 1948, black turnout has been majoritively democratic:

In the decade before 1948, black Americans identified as Democrats about as often as they did Republicans. In 1948, as Real Clear Politics’ Jay Cost wrote a few years ago, Democrat Harry Truman made an explicit appeal for new civil rights measures from Congress, including voter protections, a federal ban on lynching and bolstering existing civil rights laws. That year, the number of blacks identifying as Democrats increased.

The second big jump is the one that you likely thought of first: The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Its passage in July of that year was the culmination of a long political struggle that played out on Capitol Hill. When he signed the bill, President Lyndon Johnson reportedly said that Democrats would, as a result, lose the South for a generation. It’s been longer than that.

While it may be true that great gestures were made by the DNC, a party the prides itself on being the party of minorities, it would be untrue to say that the RNC has entirely ignored or lacked in its attempt to reach minorities including their support of The Civil Rights Act of 1964:

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed the Senate on a 73-to-27 vote. The Democratic supermajority in the Senate split their vote 46 (69%) for and 21 (31%) against. The Republicans, on the other hand, split their vote 27 for (82%) and 6 against (18%). Thus, the no vote consisted of 78% Democrats. Further, the infamous 74-day filibuster was led by the Southern Democrats, who overwhelmingly voted against the act.

An examination of the House vote shows a similar pattern. The House voted 290 to 130 in favor. Democrats split their vote 152 (61%) to 96 (39%) while Republicans split theirs 138 (80%) to 34 (20%). The no vote consisted of 74% Democrats. Clearly, the 1964 Civil Rights Act could not have been passed without the leadership of Republicans such as Everett Dirksen and the votes of Republicans.

Like all matters of history can become the details are complicated. Same principle applies to U.S. voters. Steven Phelps from the American Center for Progress noted during the 2016 election:The majority of whites have voted Republican in every election over the past 50 years, but a meaningful minority of whites support the Democratic nominee every election. The latter fact raises yet another question: Just how many—or how few—Democratic white voters are there? The answer has implications not just for 2044 but also for the outcome of the 2016 election. The historic evidence suggests that Democratic whites comprised 34 percent to 48 percent of all white voters—and that 34 percent number is a floor.” Phelps is correct, the Democratic vote remains reliant on white voters, but Hillary lost because of the electoral votes taken by Trump in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin whose populations are all overwhelmingly white but also under economic and social distress.

Equally important is the clear, distinct connection and even ownership African-Americans have with the Democratic Party, though clearly not entirely as there are black republican voters. What that may indicate and how it impacts Identity Politics at large between minority groups (not just racial but also women or LGBTQ) and older social identities (not just whites but the religious and more traditionally minded) could explain the growing political tensions seen in present American politics and the rise of mob mentality seen in all identity-based groups. While demographics have a role in their connection to each political party due to historical events, it is also geographical (See: Brookings Six Maps of Racial Diversity for example) and ideological (See: 5 facts about black Democrats for example). Ignoring those two factors are detrimental to the truth as well.

While this analysis is not exhaustive there are indicators suggesting that the GOP is shrinking, but it is also very likely the United States is moving politically left and/or a greater pendulum swing of attitudes in relation to the uneasiness of social, economic, and political shifts of the last twenty years that pushes ideological leanings further from one group or another. Studying the long-term moral and normative practices of citizens along with their beliefs concerning healthcare, jobs, immigration, and religion are all helpful indicators as to what the future holds for America and American political parties.

Additional Information:

When Did African Americans Actually Get the Right to Vote?

“All Blacks Vote the Same?”: Assessing Predictors of Black American Political Participation and Partisanship

How Americans Lost Their National Identity

The uneasy history of socialism and race explains why Sanders appeals to so few minority voters

‘Please Don’t Convert to Whiteness’

Who Votes in America?

Voting and Voter Registration as a Share of the Voter Population, by Race/Ethnicity

National Turnout Rates, 1787-2018

State of American Political Ideology, 2009

4 Comments on “Welcome to the Party: America’s Established Political Parties By Race

  1. Very interesting information and analysis. The GOP is shrinking because of a communication gap–an unwillingness to engage with the widely held notion that it is a monolithic group. Perhaps this changes in 2024 with Nikki Haley, though it looks like Pence may play spoiler.

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    • That is a great point concerning the GOP. And I want to say they may be a bit disillusioned about their ability to connect with younger generations and minorities. I’m not convinced it’s the social issues they need to change but perhaps reconsider their economic stances but it would take a little bit more analysis for me to make such a statement. It’s just a hunch of mine.

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