States like Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, have in the range of 30% African Americans, who, from what I can tell, vote about 90% Democrat. Yet these states vote reliably Republican.

What is the explanation?

  • That non-African Americans skew as far to the Republicans as African Americans do to Democrats, so that overall votes are ~60% Republican -- a number considered "lop-sided"?
  • That a smaller percentage of African Americans turn out to vote?
  • Or is something wrong in the analysis above?
  • 7
    Elections for which office? President? Governor? Senator? House of Representatives? State legislators? (I ask because this determines how much “turnout” and “gerrymandering” are valid answers to the question.)
    – dan04
    Jul 27, 2020 at 23:42
  • 33
    Just to take the 1st state in your list alphabetically, according to the 2010 census the percentage of African-Americans in Alabama is 26.2%. I hardly consider that "in the range of 40%", therefor the premise of your question is flawed.
    – Glen Yates
    Jul 28, 2020 at 0:37
  • 1
    @dan04 Good point, but let's say for President of the US.
    – Joshua Fox
    Jul 29, 2020 at 17:50
  • 2
    @GlenYates Thank you for pointing that out about my statement; so that is an important part of the answer.
    – Joshua Fox
    Jul 29, 2020 at 17:50
  • 2
    Any effects of possibly a white government with a white Attorney General and a white police might make overproportinally more arrests of other ethnicities, which in the US can sometimes lead to permanent loss of voting rights? Jul 30, 2020 at 15:12

5 Answers 5


Using the Cooperative Congressional Election Study 2018, we can test your hypothesis that non-African Americans skew as far to the Republicans as African Americans do to Democrats. Let's limit ourselves firstly to voters in the deep south, which I'll define as Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, & South Carolina. This gives us a survey population of 4,920.

We can then stratify the survey population by race, and look at how they identify politically. Looking at the 1,155 of these respondents who self-identified as 'Black', we can construct the following breakdown - clearly black respondents skew heavily towards the Democratic Party.

enter image description here

Looking now at the remaining respondents, we can obtain a very different graph - we see a large number of 'Strong Republican' respondents, as well as a general skew towards the Republican end of the scale. However, there isn't quite such a well-defined skew as the first graph.

enter image description here

Despite the skew not being quite so dramatic, it is dramatic enough to ensure that the states as a whole generally vote Republican. Firstly, the 40% figure in your question isn't quite accurate - according to the American Community Survey 2018 figures, Black or African American Alone makes up between 26.6% (South Carolina), and 38.0% (Mississippi) of the population, for a total proportion of around 30.6% of the population of the above five states. This factor, exacerbated by a small turnout gap, allows the vast Democratic lean amongst the Black population to be outweighed by the relatively smaller, but still large, Republican lean within the non-Black population.

enter image description here

However, on a more local level, the African American demographic does have a significant effect. As the population tends to be centred around the 'Black Belt', this allows the Democratic lean of the demographic to be more obviously represented. For example, the county-level map of the 2016 election provides an interesting depiction of this phenomenon.

enter image description here

  • 69
    "This factor, exacerbated by a small turnout gap": Hence why voter suppression has always been a thing in the deep South and cities.
    – CGCampbell
    Jul 27, 2020 at 21:09
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    Another significant cause is the massive gerrymandering in those areas Jul 27, 2020 at 21:19
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    @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft That doesn't affect statewide races, which I think is what the question was focused on. There's also conflicting incentives with gerrymandering since if there are packed districts (there tends to be) instead of all cracked districts, then the safe incumbents in those districts have no reason to take one for the team, especially when the "team" of a coherent statewide Democratic party might not even exist.
    – Teleka
    Jul 28, 2020 at 2:05
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    @Teleka Gerrymandering still plays a huge role indirectly by packing the state congress with disproportionately more republicans. These republicans go on to do a variety of things which systemically disrupts the lives of black people, which distract and discourage them from voting even in statewide elections.
    – spacetyper
    Jul 28, 2020 at 2:12
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    @JoshuaFox These answers are clearly contributing factors, but I think the underlying issue is that ~30% of the population cannot outvote the remaining 70% if views are polarised enough. Even though the smaller proportion (black) skews vastly towards one party, the larger proportion (non-black) skews far enough towards the other that this is negated, and then some. Nevertheless, my answer not touching on the points you mention isn't intended to discredit these factors, rather, this is an incredibly detailed topic and a completely comprehensive answer would be hard to achieve in this format.
    – CDJB
    Jul 28, 2020 at 12:34

Even ignoring demographics there is still a key reason here.


In “Growth in the U.S. Ex-Felon and Ex-Prisoner Population, 1948 to 2010,” Sarah Shannon and colleagues estimate that one-third of black men had a felony conviction in 2010

Not only do many states outright ban felons voting, but once the bans expire there is extra paperwork to restore it. There are additional restrictions on driving that people have which interfere with their ability to register and vote. These restrictions are more more common in the south

enter image description here

Lastly, higher income blacks are more conservative, so these problems probably affect the democratic blacks more.

So even if the demographics favored blacks there are parole and other restrictions that limit their ability to vote, and these issues affect the democratic demographic the most.

  • 3
    I'm unclear on the point you are trying to make. Are you saying that enough black people are felons, to skew the election results? I can understand many police departments/sheriffs/etc. to be biased, but to the point of having a significant portion of the black population actually felon? Seems a bit far-fetched. But hey, not American, so please correct me if you have the data.
    – Jeffrey
    Jul 28, 2020 at 1:30
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    @Jeffrey: According to the University of Georgia, 3% of the US population has served time in prison, and 8% have had a felony conviction. For Black males, the numbers are 15% and 33%.
    – dan04
    Jul 28, 2020 at 2:42
  • See also: politics.stackexchange.com/q/7840/130
    – gerrit
    Jul 28, 2020 at 7:22
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    This answer is useful, but should be complemented to point out the outrageously high number of African American males who have a felony conviction in those states specifically (IIRC it's even significantly more than one-third), as not everyone is aware of those figures.
    – gerrit
    Jul 28, 2020 at 7:23

The Republicans were very successful at gerrymandering in states where they started with a majority and they used racial data to do it. It's called Project REDMAP.

For example, Georgia: In 2016, the overall state percentage of voters was 45.35% for Clinton and 50.44% for Trump, which seems like a moderately close race. But only 5 out of 14 representatives (36%) are Democrats. If you look at the breakdown of the presidential race by congressional district you can see that the voting strongly correlates to race but most of the non-white people in Georgia are packed into only four congressional districts.

  • 8
    It should be pointed out that all 5 of the Democrats from Georgia are Black. Largely because while federal law prevents denying representation to racial minorities, there ain't no rule against locking White Democrats out of Congress.
    – dan04
    Jul 28, 2020 at 2:37
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    @dan04 I don't understand what you're getting at by "there ain't no rule against locking white democrats out of Congress".
    – gerrit
    Jul 28, 2020 at 7:25
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    @gerrit I think this alludes to the supreme court decisions Miller v. Johnson which found gerrymandering to suppress the vote of racial demographics unconstitutional and Gill v. Whitford which found that gerrymandering for partisan reasons is fine.
    – Philipp
    Jul 28, 2020 at 7:56
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    @gerrit: Philipp is right. As a consequence of the federal law and jurisprudence on gerrymandering, the Republican-dominated Georgia legislature drawing up the district map had to give 5 districts to Black Representatives, but was perfectly free to draw the other 9 districts in such a way that all of them would be won by Republicans, and did. So Black Democrats get elected to Congress, but White Democrats don't.
    – dan04
    Jul 28, 2020 at 8:14

Mississippi, for example is about 60% white 35% black (and small numbers of other racial groups)

In 2016, the state was comfortably Republican, with Trump winning 57% of the vote. so let's run the numbers, assuming that 90% of the black vote was Democrat, and that there were no significant differences in voter turnout, what percentage of of the non-black population were Republican?

0.1*0.35 + 0.65 x = 0.57

x = (0.57 - 0.035)/0.65 = 82%

So about 82% of the non-black population would need to have supported Trump in this simple scenario.

Now If we look at exit polls: There does not appear to be an exit poll of Mississippi, but we can look at nearby states: Georgia has white support for Trump at 75%, Texas has support at 70%. Mississippi is more of a deep South state than these, so we might expect slightly higher support for Trump, and also Texas has more white-hispanic people (who tend to favour the Democrats)

Thus 82% support for Trump among white Mississippians is not implausible. There is also a racial turnout difference, and probably greater support for the Republicans among older rural black voters.

Another State, for which there is an exit poll, is South Carolina:

The state is 27% black. In the exit poll black voters skewed 94% democrat (!) and white voters skewed 70% republican. But the electorate was only 19% black. There were significant numbers of black non-voters, resulting in a 54:40% win for Trump.

  • Is this answer looking just at popular vote, or does it consider gerrymandering?
    – bob
    Jul 28, 2020 at 18:01
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    @bob: Gerrymandering isn't relevant to Presidential elections.
    – dan04
    Jul 28, 2020 at 18:39

You are correct. There is a slight but significant racial turnout gap and Republicans consistently win low percentages of the black vote. Combine that with general demographics and it is unsurprising that Republicans have consistently dominated the South in recent decades.

  • 4
    Please edit in figures from your links. Jul 27, 2020 at 20:50
  • 1
    So there was a big turnout gap during 2008 Obama election? Nonsense.
    – ATL_DEV
    Jul 31, 2020 at 3:49

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