Voting patterns among demographic groups

Published 8:02 am Thursday, August 17, 2006

By By Steve Flowers
Among national voters there exists definitive long term voting patterns among demographic groups.
The most obvious is that over 90 percent of all African American voters vote Democratic. The majority of white voters vote Republican. However, within white voter groups there is a distinct gender gap. White males are overwhelmingly Republican and white females are split 50/50. They may not discuss politics before they vote, but unquestionably there are a lot of husbands and wives who vote differently than each other, thus many times they cancel out each other's vote. These white males tend to like the pro-gun and pro-military posture of the Republican Party and women tend to care more about issues like education and childcare which the Democrats are perceived as being strongest on.
Alabamians trend pretty much like this pattern. The one difference is that southern women are more conservative than their counterparts nationwide regarding social issues, probably due to the strong religious base found in the Bible Belt. There comes with this provincialism a subtle belief that the woman's place is in the home. The obvious question is how does this affect Lucy Baxley, the Democratic nominee's race for Governor?
Female voters usually decide elections and they will decide this Governor's race. Thus the obvious question is will they choose one of their own? Republican women are as reactionary as their male counterparts. They probably do not think a woman should be Governor, but they also would not vote for a Democrat anyway. By the same token Democratic women voters are in the barn also. They might enjoy voting for a woman like Lucy more, but they would vote for any Democrat. Thus the race will revolve around independent women voters. They range from progressive professionals in Birmingham to well heeled environmentalists in Mobile, but the bulk of these women reside in rural Alabama, most are middle class, many are single moms and they do not always vote. The best description of this lady is as national pundits have referred to her and that is that she is either a soccer mom or the waitress at the Waffle House.
These women can identify with Lucy Baxley because she is truly one of them. She was born and raised in rural Houston County from humble roots. She became a clerk in the courthouse, moved to Montgomery, married rising political star Bill Baxley, went through a public divorce from Baxley, became the left wife, raised her children while selling real estate in Birmingham, and then became State Treasurer and Lt. Governor. She has told this story to practically every civic group in the state for the past twelve years, especially the past four. It resonates with your average Alabama voters the same way Lurleen Wallace's story endeared her to Alabamians 40 years ago. They love to see a clerk become a Governor. It is like a fairy tale come true. In Lucy's case it looks like these independent voting women are pulling for her. They seem to be saying, "Way to go girl."
A group of voters which tends to get overlooked is young voters ages 18-25 because they generally do not vote. However, if they do, in my opinion it favors Lucy. Young voters tend to be more progressive, less prejudiced, and more attuned to women taking their rightful positions of power in politics and business. The most telling illustration occurred two years ago at Girls State. This is the cream of the crop of female high school leaders. When Lucy Baxley addressed them you could tell they were much more attentive to Lucy than to any other speaker. When she finished she opened herself to questions. The first questioner asked her if she planned to run for Governor in 2006. When she said she probably would the place exploded in applause. These young female leaders wanted a female Governor. If they vote I think they vote for Lucy.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama's leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at <>.

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