Thursday, November 15, 2012

Demographics, stereotypes and the American election

Below is a topic brought up at work about how/if demographics played a part in the most recent election.  I thought this post by one of my colleague's expressed my point of view, so thought I should share.  Who did you vote for and why?  What about the people you know?  Was it based on race, gender or religious affiliation?  Was it about values?  Was it about your income bracket (or anticipated income bracket)?  Weigh in.... 

Demographics, stereotypes and the American election

Shortly before the recent American election, my cousin, a Rabbi in Chicago, had a very uncomfortable conversation with her landlord.


"You're Jewish so you're voting for Romney too - right?"

At a loss for words, the most my cousin could manage back was "well... I'm a woman too - so I'm voting for Obama"


There has been a lot of press about how demographics played a key role in Obama's victory at the polls (along with his superior team of statisticians and a strong field organization).  The data is undeniable -  Obama had significant margins of victory among Black, Hispanic, Asian-American, Women, Young and LGB voters - who also  represented a greater percentage of the electorate than in previous elections.


I mean look at the pictures below - doesn't the crowd at the Democratic National Convention on the left just look more diverse than the crowd at the Republic National Convention on the right?



But in all this data and analysis - it's important to think back to my cousin's experience.  Reducing her political views to her gender or her religion is kind of insulting.  And while there are individuals out there who are "single-issue" voters based on their religion, gender or sexual orientation - most people vote for the candidate that best fits their values.  These values are very likely influenced by your cultural background - where you grew up, what your parents value, the opportunities you've been given, whom you tend to hang out with, how you treat and are treated by others.  But they are also uniquely yours - they are your story to tell - and not for others to assume.


Obama didn't win because of demographics.  He won (in part) because he created an inclusive narrative that allowed a plurality of individuals to see themselves and their stories in the picture, to feel like they fit in and to believe that they and those they care about are more likely to be better off in 4 years under his presidency.


And that's our challenge in Inclusion and Diversity - to move away from what Laura Liswood in The Loudest Duck (I second Catherine Hackworth's recommendation) calls the "Noah's Ark" mentality of counting people and toward a toolbox that allows us to be more comfortable, engaging and motivating with those who are different in a variety of dimensions.


  1. I voted for Obama for a number of reasons. One of which has nothing to do with race. I agree with his position on Women's Rights, being a mother already, and a 21st century woman I believe every woman has to right to choose what to do with her body, I don't want that right rescended. I also am interested to see how Obamacare plays out as I pay a tremendous amount for Healthcare, it matters very much to me, being considered the working middle class the increase in taxes that would definitely take fold if Romney was in office would be a make or break to my current living situation. Also, Romney wasn't consistent on his views of pulling troops out of the middle east in a timely fashion and also bringing more of out troops into other parts of the world. Not feasible to me as we bring and keep troops in other countries fighting wars it just keeps increasing our deficit. Next, I did see some improvement since Obama was in office, although it's not as much as he claimed would happen 4 years ago, there was improvement in unemployment, programs for small business owners..etc. Also, Obama's stance on education and increased skills sets withouts parent or students breaking the bank or not being able to not afford school at all was very important to me as a woman who wants to go back to school and also as a mother who has two children I want to receive a higher education. The stance on illegal immigrants children being able to also have access to the "american dream" meant alot to me as well. Not because my parents are immigrants, but because many people I know fall into this category, and they are only here in search of a better life for them and their children, and if they are willing to put in the work and achieve, why should the government push them out of the country, back into a country of poverty and deprivation. Especially if we are truly the "land of the free and home of the brave" "the place where dreams come true". If we are truly the Country of freedom then to me Obama was our best pick.

    1. I agree. While I am very happy and proud that Obama is a black man with a black wife, this is not why I voted for him. I voted for him because he is working towards those things that are important to me and my family and those things that I believe would make America a better place for all. I don't care about party or race or how much money you have. I only care about whom I feel is most equipped to do the job at hand and who holds the values and goals most similar to mine. To be honest, I don't know that I would've voted for Obama in 2008, if Michael Bloomberg was running against him. Also, I personally did not have much of a problem with John McCain other than the fact that I felt he was too old (sorry...but I feared Alzheimer's or some other sickness would cut his ability to lead this country it has with other old presidents in the past) and a few of his values did not match mine as well as Obama's did.

      Overall, I think Obama won because the country knew who the best person for the job was. They saw that Romney didn't really have a stance and kept flipping back and forth, depending on who asked the question and when. Yes, I do believe there were people that voted for Obama strictly because he was black. However, I also think that there were some people who didn't vote for him for the very same it all evens out in the end. Obama popular and electoral vote.....because of his values and policies and intelligence and potential.