Introduction to Sociology
Race and Politics: Omaha

Samantha Madsen, Grant Gallo, Russell Ford, Liliana Tamayo

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Introduction: The study sheds light on the correlation between race and political affiliation within the 7 districts of Omaha, Nebraska. Omaha’s extreme race separation is blatantly obvious to the rest of Nebraska, as well as to the United States. It is also known that Nebraska has become a predominantly Republican state in the last 10 years. The study examined newspapers from different areas of Omaha that are known to be culturally diverse and were able to see what certain races value in politics and how the editors of such papers approached different controversies in politics. In this specific study, it examines wards one through eight in Omaha. However, it also examined if race and district in Omaha determine which way the population votes in local and national elections.

 

Data:

The Omaha Star – North Omaha

 

 

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Article Excerpt from the Omaha Star which is the Newspaper within the area of North Omaha.

It is said that Obama’s election in 2012 was won majorly  because of the ”race matters” aspect of the election. Essentially saying it was a vote between a white man being president again, or a black man continuing his reign as the President of the United States. When examining the Omaha Star, we realized that like this article, there is some racial undertones within a vast majority of the articles. Also while reading the Omaha Star, it was apparent that many of the issues that arose within the articles were geared more towards lower income people. For example, when there was great talk in the government about taxes being raised for the rich and lowered for the poor, the Omaha Star only wrote about the taxes being lowered for the poor because they aim their articles more at the lower class people who live in North Omaha.

Also when examining their articles, they target the racial tension that occurred across the US since Obama became the first black president. As seen above, in an article published right after Obama’s second election to office, the editors chose to show that Obama overcame the hate aimed at him from people all over the US, and made his election solely about race. Instead of congratulating him as a man and politician, he was simply praised because he was a black man entering a predominately white man’s world. They also talk about how bad the racial tension has gotten all over the US as well as how poorly government officials are dealing with threats of violence or hate crimes across the nation.

 

The Omaha World Herald

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The study examined the Omaha World Herald, there was no mention of racial discrimination within the election- they just congratulated Obama on winning the race and moved on. They didn’t look at Obama as a man of color who had just won the election, but rather, talked about him like any man, regardless of skin color. Since the World Herald is geared towards people of all races, it is expected that there be no disrespect to any races and political parties.  Although there is an article about republicans posted above, the newspaper alternates respectively on which party they publish about in varying articles and issues. The World Herald also doesn’t post very many controversial topics because they aim to please all races and cultural backgrounds because of Omaha becoming a melting pot of citizens.

The West “O” Newspaper – West Omaha

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The West “O” is a newspaper that is published and mainly distributed in West Omaha and the suburbs of West Omaha. In all of their publications, there are no mentions of politics at all- not even when the first black man became president. In an interview with an editor at the West “O” (Cheryl), she said “We don’t support any political party or publish anything regarding politics.” When asked why that is, she said, “Our readers aren’t interested in reading it in the West ‘O’ AND the World Herald.” Since West Omaha is mostly populated by the upper middle class, they feel as though they’re supported and endorsed by the Omaha World Herald. The World Herald gives political information mostly on white politicians and problems white families face. While very rarely is there an article about the struggles of low income families in Omaha. The West “O” looks almost like a gag newspaper with its bright colors and kid friendly articles. Most of what is posted in the West “O” are upcoming events and ads for world class facial and very experienced and expensive plastic surgeons.

 

The Reader – South Omaha

 

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The south Omaha newspaper El Perico is owned by a company called The Reader. While there was nothing from his first election that could be examined, an article about his second term running for President sufficed. In terms of with or against, the people of South Omaha seem to be in favor of President Obama. They are mostly in favor of him because of the Dream Act and what he is doing to allow more undocumented people become  U.S citizens. Also, many people who come from lower-income families support him more because he genuinely cares about the welfare of the citizens here. Obama has allowed lower class families to gain access to health care, housing, and basic life necessities. From analyzing the South Omaha newspaper, it was evident that Obama was the best choice for our President.

 

History of Voter data:

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Because America has such a tattered history between whites and people of color,  this theory is even more likely to be proven because of the deep rooted hostility among the races. Because the 2008 election was the first time a black man has publicly challenged a white man in politics, people in Omaha rallied around Barack Obama and showed up to not only register, but to actually cast a vote as well in order to improve his chances of winning the election not only for himself, but for the people of low income Omaha to be given hope of equality of the races. By showing the public that a black man could indeed win the race for president, that the playing field can be even and a black man has people who support him from both races just because of the programs he supports and the ideas he puts forth.

 

2012 Voter Turnout By Ward – Obama vs. Romney

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In the above table, it shows the voter turn out for Douglas County, separated into wards one through eight. The table illustrates how many people registered to vote as well as those who actually voted in the Presidential election of 2012. Wards one through four considered North and a bit of South Omaha. Within Race and Politics written by P. Katel in 2008, Still a House Divided published by Desmond King and Roger Smith of Princeton University Press in 2011, and in the article “White Residents, Black Incumbents, and a Declining Racial Divide.” written by Hajnal Zoltan within The American Political Science Review in 2001, it was revealed that many people in low income areas, specifically those people of color feel as if they’re helpless because of the oppressive history of the United States’ voting system. This could be a possible reason why, on an average, 64% of voters within the wards one through four (North & South Omaha, Dundee, and Midtown) showed up to vote as opposed to wards five through eight (West Omaha, downtown Omaha & Bellevue) where 73% of registered voters turned up to the voting polls.

 

2008 Voter Turnout By Ward – Obama vs. McCain

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When comparing the 2012 voter turnout table to the 2008 table,  the number of voters that registered to vote in the election was increased from 315,185 in 2008 to 327,152 in 2012. What made this jump significant is that although there was an increase in the number of people who registered to vote, 3,000 less people showed up to vote in 2012 than in 2008.  In 2008, the wards one through four had a very high turnout rate with an average of 67%. This election was when Barack Obama was the Nominee for the Democratic party and he was going to be the first black president of the United States. Therefore, since he catered to a lot of the concerns and need of poverty-ridden citizens, it would make sense that there was a reason why so many people with low incomes and, in Omaha, with different ethnicities. Because we’re examining why this could be sociologically happening, a possible reason is that in many sociology textbooks, when a race finds themselves able to vote against a different ethnic group, they’re more likely to participate in the voting process in order to increase the chance that their own race will win, thus, becoming known as the superior race compared to another race.

 

Percentage of Democratic Votes vs. Percentage of Republican Votes By Ward

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Looking at the past three presidential elections the results from each Omaha ward remained fairly consistent. The 2004 election was the only one of the three that was not equally divided. Omaha’s fourth ward voted in favor of President elect George Bush by around four percent. The past two elections have seen Omaha’s fourth Ward vote in favor of the Democratic candidate by nearly a twenty percent margin. Some of the biggest discrepancies in results by ward occurs in Omaha ward 2 and 8. The Democratic Party has dominated ward 2 in the past three elections, while the results in ward 8 show the opposite with the Republican party showing a large margin of dominance. Ward 2 is located in North Omaha, and is an area predominantly populated by  African Americans that have shown to side with Democratic Party. Ward 8 is located in the western portion of Omaha and the majority population is middle to upper class white people who vote with the Republican Party. The wards that are comprised of mostly minority voters side with the Democratic party, while the wards with the makeup of mostly middle to upper class White Americans shows a clear vote for the Republican Party.

 

Visual Representation of Voters by Ward in 2008

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By the time the next election came up, the voter results became a clear result of a changing city. Wards one through four became more united by voting in favor of Obama. During this time, much of Omaha was starting to become more liberal and willing to take the side of democrats. Even though wards five through eight were still in favor of the republican party, the democratic vote was right behind. Obama became the favorable vote during this election because he could relate to many people who reside in Omaha. He was a person of color who faced many challenges throughout his life, and he was about to become the first President of color. According to our data, this election was one of the closest races for Omaha in terms of republican and democratic votes.  

 

Visual Representation of Voters by Ward in 2012

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In Obama’s first election, the voters of Omaha placed him right by McCain. However, by the time his second election came up, Omaha clearly become more divided. Wards five through eight became primarily western Omaha, while wards one through four were downtown, north, and south Omaha. Western Omaha has become more of a conservative, elite place while the rest of Omaha has become more liberal. Omaha became more segregated not only between political views, but between elites and minorities as well.

 

Voter Turnout from 2000 to 2012

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The voter turnout saw a drastic increase for the 2008 election between John McCain and Barack Obama. This was especially true for the Democratic turnout due to the running of a minority candidate (Barack Obama). Both the GOP and the DNC saw a dramatic increase in voters from the 2004 election to the 2008 election. Voter turnout jumped considerably from 64.3% in 2004 to 74% in 2008 in the Democratic National Convention. The Republican party also saw an increase from 71% in 2004 to 77% in 2008. As we saw in 3 of our research journals, many times when race comes into play in elections, more people from both sides turn out to vote for their specific race unless they absolutely do not agree with what their opponent stands for.

However, in the 2012 election, there was a drastic fall in voter turnout which can only be contributed to laziness, or lack of interest among voters. In 2012 Barack Obama was running for a second term against Mitt Romney. Voters would have either felt neutral about either opponent winning the presidency, or they didn’t think it would be that close of an election so they didn’t feel as though their votes mattered.

Conclusion

The study proved how much of an impact President Obama has had on the citizens of Omaha from 2008 to 2012. The study also concluded that skin color, as well as what areas people live in, and what socioeconomic status they fall into plays a major role in which way people vote, as well as how highly they value politics. Our data also examined how much Omaha has shifted from the 2008 Presidential election to the 2012 election.  

 

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