Facing South

Election 2008: Did Southern whites vote for Obama?

One of the biggest questions in the 2008 election was this: Will whites in the South vote not just for Democratic president, but for the first major African-American candidate in history?

The short answer is: A lot did, especially outside of the core Deep South states. An Institute analysis of 2008 exit poll data finds that in the majority of Southern states, 30% or more of whites voted for President-elect Barack Obama.

Perhaps even more telling, Obama's performed virtually the same among white voters in six Southern states as 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry, and in three Southern states Obama did better among whites.

Only in three Southern states -- Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana -- did Obama do significantly worse than Kerry among Southern whites.

RANKINGS: Percent of Whites Voting for Obama in Southern States
Difference from 2004 in parantheses

States where 30%+ of whites voted for Obama:

1 - Florida: 42% (0 point difference from Kerry 2004)
2 - West Virginia: 41% (-1)
3 - Virginia: 39% (+7)
4 - Kentucky: 36% (+1)
5 - North Carolina: 35% (+8)
6 - Tennessee: 34% (0)
7 - Arkansas: 30% (-6)

States where under 30% of whites voted for Obama:

8 (tie) - South Carolina: 26% (+4)
8 (tie) - Texas: 26% (+1)
10 - Georgia: 23% (0)
11 - Louisiana: 14% (-10)
12 - Mississippi: 11% (-3)
13 - Alabama: 10% (-9)

There is a clear difference between the two groups: The states where 30% or more whites voted for Obama are often called the Peripheral South; the second group are clustered in or near the Deep South.

Beyond that, there are other divisions.

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