In the wake of Democrat Doug Jones’s narrow victory in the Alabama special Senate election, social media users quickly seized on a detail in the exit polling from the state. While white men and white women voted for Republican Roy Moore by 42- and 33-point margins respectively, black men preferred Jones by an 85-point margin — and black women preferred him by a stunning 94 points. Earning 94 percent of the vote is one thing. Winning by a 94-point margin is something else.
In total, black women made up more than twice as much of the support for Jones in Alabama as Democratic presidential candidates have seen nationally in recent elections.
Of course, the density of the black population in Alabama is higher than it is nationally. But it’s still the case that, as we noted Tuesday night, more than half of the support Moore received was from white men. More of his support was from white men than even Donald Trump’s nationally in 2016.
The vagaries of Alabama aside, this split raises a point that often goes underappreciated. In recent years, the Democratic Party has become nonwhite much more rapidly than has the Republican Party, which almost certainly helps drive the overlap between racial politics and partisan politics.
Using data from the biannual General Social Survey, we can see how the compositions of the two parties have evolved by race. While the Democrats have seen an uptick in the percentages of black and other nonwhite Americans, driving the segment of the party that is white to about 60 percent …
… the Republicans have seen much less of a shift.
(There are no data for 1992.)
Much of that unfortunately-named “other” category reflects growth in the country’s Hispanic population, but it also includes other ethnic and racial groups including Asian Americans.
Asian Americans have moved dramatically to the left over the past two decades as they’ve made up more of the population. This chart is from shortly before the 2016 election.
Back to the broader point, though: After white men and white women — who are still the two largest groups in the Democratic Party — the next largest demographic group is black women.
In past surveys, nearly a fifth of the party has been made up of black women. (There’s a lot of variability in these numbers; in 2016, the figure was about 16 percent.)
In the Republican Party, black women make up the smallest group.
Looking solely at the percentages of white and black women in the Republican Party, the ratio of white women to black women is 32 to 1.
In the Democratic Party, the ratio is 2.3 to 1 — even as black and white women make up more than half of the party.
The implications of that are significant. Only about 1-in-8 Americans are black. About 1-in-4 Democrats are black; about 1-in-26 Republicans are. Black women were critical to Jones’s victory — but black women are important to the Democratic coalition much more broadly than that.