The Herald Bulletin

November 7, 2012

Obama backers say race wasn’t a factor in vote

By Baylee Pulliam
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Many factors go into choosing a presidential candidate. But is race one of them?

In Indiana, nearly 90 percent of all blacks — 8 percent of the electorate — voted for Democratic incumbent Barack Obama.

The story was similar in other Midwestern states. In Ohio and Illinois, that meant a Democratic vote from 96 percent of blacks, and 93 percent of the black vote nationwide.

Irma Hampton-Stewart, a board member at Anderson Community Schools, said she voted for Obama.

“It’s easy to say race played a part because African Americans voted for an African-American president,” she said. But her skin color had nothing to do with it, she said.

Exit poll numbers could just as easily suggest a bias among white voters. A 60 percent majority of white Hoosiers — who represent 84 percent of the Indiana electorate — voted for white Republican Mitt Romney.

Renne Kolde is part of the other 40 percent. She’s white, but voted for Obama.

“I like a level-headed guy,” said Kolde, 50, of Anderson. “He’s smart. It’s not his fault the economy’s ruined.”

James Burgess, president of the Anderson/Madison County NAACP, said Kolde’s not alone.

“In spite of what we might think, there are whites who voted for him (Obama), too,” he said. “There’s whites who love him to death.”

Obama took 39 percent of the white vote nationally, in addition to almost all of the black vote.

But if race wasn’t a factor for her, Kolde said it might have been for others. “Even if they don’t want to admit it.”

Hampton-Stewart said the focus should be on the issues.

“Why vote for someone who’s contrary to your interests and contrary to your beliefs?” she said. “Because he’s white?”

Exit polls show race wasn’t the only divider in Indiana. Religion, gender, party affiliation and income counted big.

Anderson City Councilman Ollie H. Dixon, D-District 4, said income probably created the biggest split. And, he said, blacks tend to earn less.

On the whole, that’s true: In 2009, the median household income for blacks was about 37 percent less than that of whites, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

A slight majority of Hoosiers who earn less than $50,000 voted Democratic in the presidential race, while those earning more leaned Republican.

“There’s struggling people out here; they’re working class,” Dixon said. “Obama reached out to them — black or white” with his health care and welfare policies.

Dixon said the fact he’s African American didn’t decide his vote for Barack Obama. “I vote for the candidate I think is right,” he said.

“I think there was some racial divide (in voting),” he said. “But I don’t think that was the determining factor.”

Find Baylee Pulliam on Facebook and @BayleeNPulliam on Twitter, or call 648-4250.