A racial divide over Obama, and what it means for House races

Gallup’s latest survey shows President Obama with 45 percent approval, but that approval is not evenly distributed. Among blacks, 91 percent approve of him. Among whites, 36 percent approve. Among Hispanics, he gets 55 percent approval — a very slight improvement from this summer, but way down from the 69 percent approval he enjoyed from Latinos one year ago.

These numbers show that black voters love Obama, and that they are propping up what are otherwise sagging approval numbers for him. It’s a huge problem for Democrats in this year’s midterm elections. Our own Michael Barone has noted before that this divide means lower numbers for him in competitive House districts. Racial gerrymandering, which is mandated by federal law, puts very large numbers of African-American voters into U.S. House districts that are rarely competitive. This means that Barack Obama is probably very, very popular in about 45 non-competitive, largely black districts nationwide, and correspondingly less popular in all of the others.

To illustrate the significance, here is the percentage of African-American residents in each of the 45 districts where the NRCC is advertising this week. You’ll notice that there are only a few districts (in blue) where black residents make up more than the national average of 12.4 percent of the population.

  • AL 02: 29.4%
  • AR 01: 16.6%
  • AZ 01: 1.2%
  • AZ 05: 2.7%
  • CA 11: 3.4%
  • FL 02: 22.1%
  • FL 08: 7.2%
  • FL 24: 6.3%
  • GA 08: 32.4%
  • IL 10: 5.3%
  • IL 11: 7.8%
  • IL 14: 4.6%
  • KY 06: 8.2%
  • IN 02: 8.1%
  • IN 08: 3.7%
  • IN 09: 2.3%
  • OH 16: 4.8%
  • PA 03: 3.5%
  • PA 10: 1.9%
  • PA 11: 2.5%
  • MD 01: 11.2%
  • MI 01: 1.0%
  • MI 07: 5.6%
  • MO 04: 3.2%
  • MS 01: 26.2%
  • NC 07: 23.1%
  • ND AL: 0.6%
  • NJ 03: 8.5%
  • NM 01: 2.3%
  • NV 03: 5.5%
  • NY 20: 2.4%
  • NY 24: 3.3%
  • OR 05: 0.6%
  • PA 07: 5.4%
  • PA 08: 3.4%
  • SC 05: 32.2%
  • SD AL: 0.6%
  • TN 08: 22.3%
  • TX 17: 10.3%
  • VA 05: 23.9%</li>
  • VA 09: 3.8%
  • WA 03: 1.2%
  • WI 07: 0.3%
  • WI 08: 0.6%
  • WV 01: 1.7%

Just for good measure, here are a few other battleground districts:

  • MA-10: 1.5%
  • NH-1: 0.7%
  • NH-2: 0.6%
  • NY-23: 2.6%
  • OH-15: 7.2%

We can only make so many assumptions about the populations in each district, and we haven’t put Hispanic voters into the equation at all, but you get the rough idea. In most districts where it will matter in next month’s House elections, Obama is probably below 45 percent.

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