Divided Nation Is Moving Further Apart

Election Shows Red and Blue States Are Here To Stay

Reality Bites: Soaring rhetoric aside, the election shows the nation really is divided into red states and blue states.
getty images
Reality Bites: Soaring rhetoric aside, the election shows the nation really is divided into red states and blue states.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published November 09, 2012, issue of November 16, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Before we get all carried away with the surprising results of our presidential election, let’s take a deep breath and acknowledge the central truth of President Obama’s reelection victory: Not much happened. For all the public’s economic discontent, for all the disappointment with Obama’s first term and the grand passions for and against abortion rights and gay marriage, the map of red and blue states remains almost unchanged. Exactly two states, Indiana and North Carolina, switched from Obama in 2008 to Romney this year. (Florida remains a tossup as I write.) The whole rest of the map stayed the same.

As for the popular vote, it shifted about 3% away from the Democrat. That was enough to tighten the race but not to change the result. The electorate became slightly less white and slightly more Hispanic. Women and young people voted very slightly less Democratic. These changes represent fierce political battles won and lost, but statistically, they’re a blip. In broad terms, we remain a 50-50 nation.

Here’s where things did shift this year: Whites voted 3% more Republican and Hispanics about 6% more Democratic. The dramatic Hispanic shift toward Obama couldn’t fully offset the white shift away because Hispanic voters are a much smaller share of the electorate than whites — roughly 10% versus 73%.

Over time, as politicians and pundits tirelessly remind us, the general population is becoming less white and more Hispanic, and the Republicans haven’t fully absorbed that fact. But the change is glacially slow. Minority births now outnumber white births, but the population remains two-thirds white. Whites are approaching minority status, but it’s a long way away.

The essential fact to know in all this, if you’re paying attention, is that Americans vote by tribe. The 60% of white votes that went Republican this year (up from 57% in 2008) is not much different from the 58% that went for George W. Bush in 2004, or the 60% that voted for the elder George Bush in 1998.

But that, too, is only part of the truth. An equally essential fact is that whites vote quite differently in blue and red states. In the blue states, Obama won about 55% of the white vote in 2008, ranging from a low of 52% in California and New York to 60% in Oregon and 68% in Vermont. In the red states, by contrast, Obama’s share of the white vote never rose above 42%.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.