What Racial Identification Change Means for Racial Group Voting Patterns

One implication of Americans bringing their racial identities in line with their politics — as detailed in this article — is potentially changing how we understand racial group voting patterns. For example, do the vote preferences of a given racial group vary by whether we measure that racial group identity during vs. before an election?

Some evidence from the Voter Study Group panel provides some support for this idea. I make use of data on the same people interviewed in late 2011 and interviewed again in September 2020. Here are Donald Trump’s two-party vote intent percentages if we define “Hispanics” based on racial identities that people expressed in…

  • 2020: 36%
  • 2011: 38%

When not using survey weights — which might be preferable given that race is factored into survey weights under an assumption of it as a static trait (using the 2020 measure of race in weighting) — the differences become more pronounced:

  • 2020: 34%
  • 2011: 42%

Nothing similar occurs among other racial groups (for African Americans, I see some of the reverse — a little bit more pro-Trump if we define this group based on racial identities expressed in 2020 rather than in 2011).

The process of vote/race alignment and the pattern for Hispanic identity might also clarify why survey data (where race and vote are measured at same time) and election returns data (where aggregate Hispanic population shares rely on older data, such as the 2010 Census) give different pictures of Hispanics’ 2020 vote preferences.

What Racial Identification Change Means for Racial Group Voting Patterns