Posted on November 7, 2014

Exit Polls: White Voters Turn Away from Democrats

Jennifer Agiesta, AP, November 7, 2014



Exit polling shows racial polarization of the electorate has begun to cross party lines, with whites less likely to back Democratic candidates than they have been in the past. Across 21 states where Senate races were exit polled, whites broke for the Republican by a significant margin in all but four–Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Oregon. None of those four states has backed a GOP candidate for president in the post-Reagan era except when New Hampshire went for George W. Bush by 1 point in 2000.

The Senate seats on the ballot this year were last up for re-election in 2008, a presidential year. Democrats typically rely on greater turnout among their core voters when the presidential race tops the ticket. But still, Democratic Senate candidates lost ground among white voters by an average of 10 points compared with 2008. White voters abandoned Democrats in droves in places with heated contests as well as those without much action. The exceptions were Minnesota and Oregon–where Democratic incumbents improved their overall support across the board–and Mississippi–where Travis Childers managed to grow the Democratic share of the white vote from 8 percent to 16 percent.

The shift is particularly acute in the South, where some of the last white Democrats in the House of Representatives lost their seats on Tuesday.

– In North Carolina, Sen. Kay Hagan carried just 33 percent of the white vote, down from 39 percent in 2008. White voters under age 30 backed Hagan decisively in 2008, 60 percent for her to 36 percent for her opponent, as they helped to sweep Barack Obama into office. But this year, younger white voters who cast ballots in North Carolina broke just as decisively for Thom Tillis, with 56 percent to 32 percent for Hagan. Twelve percent backed Sean Haugh, the Libertarian.

– In Louisiana, Mary Landrieu captured just 18 percent of the white vote, a sharp decline from the 33 percent she garnered in 2008. {snip}

– In one surprisingly competitive Senate race Tuesday, whites in Virginia voted 37 percent for Mark Warner, 60 percent for Ed Gillespie. In 2008, Warner won the votes of 56 percent of whites. Younger whites broke heavily this year for Ed Gillespie in Virginia, 57 percent to 31 percent for Warner. In 2008, Warner carried 59 percent among this group.

– Even winning Democrats aren’t immune to the drop-off in white support: Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin captured 43 percent of the white vote in his successful bid for re-election, that’s down 18 points from his support among whites in 2008.


But Republicans haven’t minimized racial polarization in the other direction either.

The coalition behind Republican Senate candidates was predominantly white, 90 percent across all 21 states with Senate races that were exit polled, ranging from 79 percent white Alaska to 98 percent white in West Virginia. {snip}