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Is West Virginia America’s Most Racist State?


Seth Stephens-Davidowitz’s piece from a couple of days ago explaining his research connecting racially charged Google searches with voting patterns for Barack Obama has made the rounds. And while I’m not a political scientist and so won’t judge the quality of the research, it certainly passes the plausibility test in my mind. Since very few people will self-identify as racist, going to Google searches to find high concentrations of racially charged searches is as good a way as any to get a spatial sense of modern racism. Where do people make lots of racist Google searches?

The state with the highest racially charged search rate in the country was West Virginia. Other areas with high percentages included western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, upstate New York and southern Mississippi.

Little of this surprises, except maybe that eastern Kentucky isn’t listed. Appalachia was always the biggest spot of resistance to Obama, where you had insanely high vote totals for Hillary Clinton in the 08 primaries because a whole lot of people in Appalachia just weren’t going to vote for a black man. And just a few weeks ago, a convicted felon won 41% of the vote in the Democratic primary for president in West Virginia–I know it wasn’t a serious race, but there’s a good number of Democratic West Virginians who are flat out racist.

On the other hand, Obama also faces pressure from the Latino population for his continued record rate of deportations. I expressed optimism when Obama announced he would deprioritize the deportations of non-criminals, but that’s had almost no effect. Unfortunately, Obama used undocumented immigrants as pawns in his game to gain credibility from Republicans that he should have seen was never going to come. Given the massive resistance Obama faces from the people who hate him, some of which is racial and some of which is just political extremism on the right, the right way to govern would be back way off all deportations and work hard to bring Latinos deep into the Democratic coalition. Most Latinos aren’t going to vote for Romney anyway but with their rapidly growing numbers, making the Democrats the party of immigrants and their families is smart long-term strategy.

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