Do Voters Flee from Black Candidates?

| Fri Apr. 14, 2006 2:57 PM EDT

Here's a sign of how little progress this country has made:

[W]hite Republicans nationally are 25 percentage points more likely on average to vote for the Democratic senatorial candidate when the GOP hopeful is black, says economist Ebonya Washington of Yale University in a forthcoming article in the Quarterly Journal of Economics. White independents are similarly inclined to vote for the white Democrat when there's a black Republican running, according to her study of congressional and gubernatorial voting patterns between 1982 and 2000, including five Senate races in which the Republican nominee was black...

But racially motivated crossover voting is not just a Republican phenomenon. Democrats also desert their party when its candidate is black, Washington found. In House races, white Democrats are 38 percentage points less likely to vote Democratic if their candidate is black.I'd only note that two of those five Senate races, I believe, involved Alan Keyes running on the Republican ticket—and it's possible that it was his actual lunacy, rather than his skin color, that drove voters away. That could skew the results a bit, although the actual study isn't available. Still, it's a depressing finding. And this next tidbit, from a different study, is also disheartening, albeit to a much lesser extent:

[A research team headed by demographer Jonathan Kelley, of Brown University and the University of Melbourne] found that not all books are created equal. "Having Shakespeare or similar highbrow books about bodes well for children's achievement," they wrote. "Having poetry books around is actively harmful by about the same amount," perhaps because it signals a "Bohemian" lifestyle that may encourage kids to become guitar-strumming, poetry-reading dreamers.
Well, then.