Vote bank politics is defined as:

A votebank (also spelled vote-bank or vote bank) is a loyal bloc of voters from a single community, who consistently back a certain candidate or political formation in democratic elections. Such behaviour is often the result of an expectation of real or imagined benefits from the political formations, often at the cost of other communities. Votebank politics is the practice of creating and maintaining votebanks through divisive policies. As it encourages voters to vote on the basis of narrow communal considerations, often against their better judgement, it is considered harmful to the principles of representative democracy.

In the US, just sticking to the last 4 presidential elections, we see that the black community has voted in vote bank fashion for the Democratic candidate.

  • Obama 2012 - 95%
  • Obama 2008 - 99%
  • Kerry 2004 - 93%
  • Gore 2000 - 95%

I am originally from India and have been convinced that vote bank politics is a shame to Indian democracy and it is very surprising to see that the same problem exists in the US also (a far more educated society). The press also seems to be happy to let this vote bank politics continue as I haven't see any talk about this subject.

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    I voted to close because The question amounts to "Is this a shame on American democracy" which is entirely opinion-based. Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 20:03
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    So if someone asked if discrimination is shameful or if racism is shameful you would think that's opinion based too?
    – user9790
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 20:51
  • Yes. And it is - unless someone can produce empirical evidence that proves that it is shameful. Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 21:08
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    If you have two parties, and one party advocates policies much more favorable (or less hostile) to a particular group, why would it be shameful for them to vote accordingly? Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 14:51

3 Answers 3


Your question confuses two terms:

  • Vote banks, even in the article you linked, refer to clientelism, where there is an individual or small sets of individuals that decides the vote of the block. In fact, the Wikipedia article even mentions the caste leader, and the clientelism term. It means the influential individuals decide the vote of their clients and reap political favour from it.

    The other side of clientelist politics is that such influential people are later rewarded by the politic machinery.

  • Voting demographics. It is well established that the distribution of vote is different between young and old people, rural and city dwellers, white collar and blue collar workers etc. It has nothing to do with clientelism, but to the fact that a young man in a city doing white collar work will probably have more in common with another young man in a city doing white collar work in comparison to an old woman in a small town in a blue collar work. While political parties may try to appeal more to a demographic or other, the decision of each of the voters is individual.

A good example of the difference would be Obama as the first black candidate. While many black people identified with him because of race, the ones who voted for him did so on their own will1, not because they were forced due to some client of "king of the black people".

Another good example is the practice of combining tickets so the candidate to POTUS and the candidate to VPOTUS are one from northern states and southern states. It is due to cater to different regional sensibilities, but no sane people would call that "block politics".

Note that your question only talks about the demographics of the votes for Obama, but it does not show "vote bank politics" measures (to keep the vote blocks system) anyway; like steps against racial justice or social mobility (to avoid black people leaving their block), measures to specifically increase the birth rate of black people (to increase the head count), etc.

Unless you can identify the "cast leaders" in the USA electoral process, I would refrain from using it. Probably it would fit the description of the USA politics during the "spoils system" period, though.

1 Social pressure may have a role here, but the difference that the pressure is "horizontal" (from peers), not vertical (someone in a higher position).

  • Good point about the difference, but now that you have mentioned it, I do think that associations like the NAACP actively play the caste leader role. Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 13:19
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    @SJuan76 I understand your argument, but it's just a matter of opinion or POV on how you interpret vote bank. Most (almost all) black leaders endorsed Clinton and they have a very big influence on the entire black voting block. The Dem Party has been taking advantage of this situation by implying the Rep. Party and some of its candidates are racist and don't like race equality.
    – Rathony
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 13:59
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    @SJuan76 - you'd be surprised at how many people in US vote the way celebrities, talking heads, or community leaders tell them to vote. This is even more so in younger generations (I doubt Elvis held nearly as much political sway as, say, Rihanna or Gaga do). Admittedly, a lot of that influence is of a slower-moving propaganda variety that takes months or years, not of a "go tomorrow and change your vote" kind. But its just as effective.
    – user4012
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 23:30
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    There used to be something similar to "vote bank politics" in the U.S. involving political party machines that secured the votes of people (typically immigrants with little knowledge of politics) in exchange for providing tangible benefits like jobs and support in hard times, via a local political party official. But, this kind of "machine politics" was abolished by the progressive movement in the early 20th century. Demographic trends in voting are now mostly due to policies of the respective parties (e.g. right now the Republican party in the U.S. is basically a white nationalist party).
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Oct 24, 2016 at 7:53
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    Of course, the whole question, its fixation on black people alone (and not, for example, NRA members) and the disregard for the lack of the the practice of creating and maintaining votebanks through divisive policies makes me suspect that it is just a way of delivering the "It is not fair that black people don't vote Republicans! It must be some kind of hidden conspiracy!" alarmist message (I will not enter into the reasons why black people could generally prefer to vote Democrats than Republicans).
    – SJuan76
    Commented Oct 24, 2016 at 16:07

How does a country like the United States have vote bank politics?

Why shouldn't a country like the US have vote bank politics? Is there any democratic country that doesn't have it?

It is wrong to assume that the US has a long history of democracy and it should not have things such as vote bank politics. You should note that women got the right to vote in 1920 and African Americans in 1965 (they had the right before, but they couldn't exercise it fully until the Voting Rights Act) in the US. Considering the fact that India started its democracy in 1947, there is no big difference between the US and India. The only few differences I see is the US got independence in the 18th century while India in the 20th century and the US established its own democracy through trial and error based on that of other countries and India learned it from other countries, mainly the UK, and applied what it learned to its democracy.

Democracy is governed by its principle, the rule of majority. No matter how many vote banks there are in any country, they all strive to gain the majority.

African American shifted its votes towards the Democrats when the Democratic Party helped them to gain the rights to vote and more equality. They used to be a strong vote bank for the Republicans from the Emancipation to early 20th centuries. They support what they believe is right. Is there any shame for anyone or any vote bank to support what they believe in? I don't think so.

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    "Is there any country that doesn't have it?" - definitely. What is vote bank in Russia, for instance?
    – Anixx
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 9:59
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    @Anixx Sorry, I should have said "Is there any democracy that doesn't have it?".
    – Rathony
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 10:26
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    @Anixx Considering that in 21st century Russia, every Duma and Presidential election was won by the same party (and never by a small margin), it is quite preposterous to claim that Russian voters would be particularly erratic.
    – Philipp
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 11:39
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    @Rathony Shouldn't education result in members of a community voting based on individual preferences/thinking as opposed to collective thinking/diktat that results in this kind of vote bank politics? Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 13:13
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    No, this does not happen. Peterburg does not vote for Putin more than Moscow does, and voted below average compared to the rest. There are no regions that prefer particular party or politician. Even if he ruled that region formerly.
    – Anixx
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 15:25

Another consideration is that many US states are Gerrymandered to enforce a vote for a particular party. Most states are re-redistricted by an elected official or series of elected officials, and several states get gerrymandered for political biased in order to pick the electorate. This occurs in both parties, with the current opinion in discussions that the the Republicans do it more, but even pro-Democratic supports don't even side step that they control one of the worst gerrymandered states in the entire union with it's infamous 3rd congressional district (aka The Broken Wing Pteradactyl district), which cuts through four different counties and the city of Baltimore. The net effect is that in a state where the voters are registered 2 Democrats for every 1 Republican, Maryland's House Delegation has only one Republican out of 8 total representatives. If it was more representative of the population, it would look more like 5-3 or 6-2, depending on how the rounding is done.

In terms of the Presidential election, this is a horse of a similar yet different color. In the United States, the Popular vote does not decide the President (or if you want to push back against people who want it too, it does, but you have to win more popular votes). The U.S. uses the Electoral college which ranks the voting power of each state by it's total congressional delegation (each state gets an automatic 3 votes plus an additional X where X = House Reps - 1). In addition D.C. gets 3 votes and may never have more votes than the least populous state in the Union (D.C. currently has a higher population then at least two states, but it's not enough to merit an additional vote, so it doesn't really matter anyway).

Each state is allowed to delegate their Electoral votes any way they see fit. Baring Nebraska and Maine, every state with two or more electoral votes chose to use a winner take all system. Nebraska and Maine divide the votes such that winner of the popular vote takes 2 votes plus one vote for each congressional district they won the popular vote in (Maine has two so there could be a 3-1 split. Nebraska has five votes, so it can be split 3-2 or 4-1.).

As mentioned by her supporters, Clinton won the national popular vote (by 3 million votes... give or take), but Trump won more electoral votes (by a wider margin of total available. He also won more counties and more congressional districts). On paper this might seem like a violation of how a "Democracy works" at first, but the system is used in to prevent a few urban areas from controlling the larger rural areas. Like I said, Hillary only wins the election if it counts pure popular vote, any division smaller than purely national, she loses by wide margins. Even in a semi-direct democracy like Switzerland, the popular vote is checked by having it measuered against the Cantons vote (equal to states in terms of federalism). If it's popular with the majority, but not popular with the Cantons, it will lose there too.

And since you asked about race, this too is also balanced by the fact that the African American population represents about 12-15% of the national population. Meanwhile the Caucasian population is about 65% of the total population of the country. When combined with the Hispanic Vote (tends to Democrats, but there are significant sub-groups that swing Republicans, such as the Cuban Population who hate Castro and anyone who says he should be allowed to exist in any way and Conservative Catholics) This is around half of the majority vote still. The remaining ethnic minority populations also tend to Democrats, but this gets wobbley with Asian Americans who only recently started voting for Democrats more (it's only recently that there was significant American generation of Asians over Immigrant Asians. Most of the latter were either from very Conservative Cultures (such as the Japanese) or fleeing Communism regimes (Vietnamese, Some Koreans) or both (Chinese).

It should be worth pointing out that while I don't have the exact numbers in front of me, Hilary Clinton's poll numbers among African Americans took a dramatic dip of a few points while Trumps poll numbers increased far greater than the drop off in Clinton's and were the best numbers for that demographic for a Republican President in decades. While these numbers still had Hillary in the low 90s among African Americans and were only 1-3 points, the fact that Trump picked up a greater percentage can be worrying as some social commentators have speculated that a loss of only 20% of the African American vote would devastate the Democrat party (Though I have no factual number crunching to back this up at this moment. It's just a little discussed possible problem I thought was interesting to mention.).

As a rule, Americans will vote in block with like minded people, based on race, region, and need. But they are not historically a part of any particular party as the goals of the party change. And while people do talk about how the Republican party used to have the black vote up until the mid-20th century, the way particular states voted has shifted as well. Keep in mind that California was not the bastion of Democrats it is seen as now. In fact, for most of it's time as a member of the Union, California was a bit of a Swing state, with a strong period of Republican lean until 1952. For the next 10 Presidential Election Cycles, California would be a Strong Republican state supporting them for all but the election of Lyndon Johnson in 1964. California swung for Eisenhower (twice) Nixon (Thrice if you Considered his failed Presidential run against **KENNEDY!*, Five times if you consider his Vice Presidential ticket with Eisenhower, and 8 times if you consider his pre-1952 Congressional service as a two term representative and once as a Senator prior), Ford (Sure, Ford Pardoned Nixon, but, given how hardcore fanboy California was for Nixon at this point, that was a feature, not a bug.) Regan (twice for Governor of California and then thought he did such a great job, they thought he deserved a promotion and elected him President) and then voted for George H.W. Bush once before contributing to his re-election defeat to Bill Clinton. Only Barry Goldwater (who lost in a landside nationally) was to offensive to Califorina's sensibilities.

As I hoped it demonstrates, the U.S. may be bank voters, but they do changes parties based on the times and the platforms and issues.

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