|Ten Second Summary
Those who identify their ancestry as European are a diverse group, too. Even after generations, ethnic identity is related to politics in ethnic enclaves at least.
Each county circled above has the highest percentage of those with Dutch ancestry (first listed ancestry) in its state. Here's a map of Dutch ancestry to compare to the electoral results:
Click to enlarge.
Turns out this is a pretty heavily Republican demographic - about 10-20% support for Obama. This leaves heavily Dutch counties in the Midwest looking a fair bit redder than their neighbors. And it's not because there's large differences in other demographic variables, such as race, income, or education.
These communities have maintained the culture of the original immigrants to at least some extent as Dutch ethnic enclaves. In 1847, two conservative Reformed pastors founded Holland, Michigan and Pella, Iowa. The percent of residents who are Reformed adherents (map) is pretty close to the percent who describe their ancestry as Dutch, indicating a substantial amount of cultural continuity. Holland, Michigan, for example, appears to take great pride in its Dutch heritage.
Not all people who indicate a European ancestry in the census may be as affected (politically) by their cultural heritage as those in these Dutch communities. There's bound to be a spectrum, from those who have a profound identification with the culture, language, religion, and values of their ancestors to those who only dimly recall their ancestors' origins.
European Americans - The Results
Here's the voting preferences of various groups of European ancestry, estimated from the November election results and census data:
Click to enlarge.
Broadly speaking, there's some tribal divisions to be seen here: Nordic descendants were more likely to support Obama, while other Germanic descendants were more likely to support McCain. Slavic descendants and immigrants also were likely to support Obama.
We Are Not All of Us Alike. Yet Again.
Of course, just as with other (typically more recent) immigrant groups, we would not expect all communities with origins in one country to have similar political tendencies. I would suspect recent immigrants from the Netherlands, for instance, would be more likely to vote for Obama than McCain, given that the Netherlands was the most pro-Obama European country (6th in the world), with 74% preferring Obama and 10% preferring McCain in a Gallup poll.
We see this above for those of Swedish heritage. In Minnesota, I estimate strong support for Obama among those of Swedish heritage; in Wisconsin, somewhat less, although it's hard to tell; but in Kansas, support is low, and similar to other Kansans. We can also see this to a lesser extent for those of German heritage, where support for Obama is higher in Wisconsin than in other states. And, we can see a role for religion, with those in Utah of English origin - which in that state is correlated to the percent of adherents to the Mormon religion - less likely to support Obama than those of English ancestry in New England. Perhaps the biggest differences are seen between those in the Northeast with French ancestry, and those in Louisiana with Cajun or French ancestry. In this case, the differing historical journeys of these two populations is quite clear, despite the common French thread.
We can also see strong differences between ethnic groups within a state - in North Dakota and Minnesota, for instance, there's a large difference in support between those of German and Norwegian ancestry that shows up in the election results map:
Click to enlarge.
Sometimes We Are Alike. Coincidence?
One intriguing finding is that seven different Polish-American communities (Sherman County, NE and Morrison and Lincoln County, MN not shown) all showed similar (and strong) support for Obama. Here's a few more details on four of these communities; census data from 2000:
Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY: Population 37,000. Urban working class community; Polish immigration from the 1890s to present day. 17,000 list first ancestry as Polish; 15,000 speak Polish (2000 under age 18) and 14,000 were born in Poland.
Cook County, IL: Population 5,000,000. The largest Polish community in the nation, urban and suburban, continuing immigration. 425,000 list first ancestry as Polish; 160,000 speak Polish (23,000 under age 18) and 121,000 were born in Poland. The census tracts used to estimate support for Obama were suburban, and around half to two-thirds of those with Polish ancestry were born in Poland.
Portage County, WI: Population 67,000. Rural communities, settled partly by Polish farmers starting in the 1850s. About 19,000 list first ancestry as Polish; 1,000 speak Polish (40 under age 18) and only 80 were born in Poland.
Luzerne County, PA: Population 303,000. An old industrial and mining center with a strong union history. The only county where a plurality of residents has Polish ancestry; immigration began 150 years ago. 60,000 list first ancestry as Polish; 2700 speak Polish (200 under age 18) and 400 were born in Poland.
Urban, suburban, and rural; recent immigrants, or longstanding American families; agricultural or industrial: were these communities all strongly supportive of Obama for different reasons or because of cultural similarities?
I heard a lot about the Ethnic White vote during the 2008 election. A brief search does not yield a clear definition, but a look at immigration patterns might help:
Click to enlarge.
Until the late 19th century, voluntary immigration to this country was almost entirely from Germanic Northern European countries, with the major exception of Ireland. Then there was a large influx from Southern and Eastern Europe, and plenty of social strife to go with it. In 1924, immigration quotas shut down immigration from these areas (and others).
So let's tentatively define "Ethnic White" as Eastern and Southern European, plus Irish (Catholic). This is essentially the upper half of the chart shown in the Results section above.
One thing stands out immediately: ethnic whites are not a monolithic group at all. Nationwide, as a group, it's quite likely that they tilt towards Republicans a bit, although remember that estimates from one geographic area aren't necessarily representative of a nationwide sample. However, there is a large amount of variation, from a generally strong support for Obama among Polish Americans to very low support among Italian Americans in portions of New York City and New Jersey.
These results are all from areas with high concentrations of people identifying with a particular ancestry - ethnic enclaves. Just as with other groups we've seen, it would be reasonable to assume those identifying with a European ancestry probably vote in a more uniform manner living within an ethnic enclave than outside of one.
This diary is the eleventh in a series taking a close look at the 2008 electorate and exploring three themes: diversity within demographics, progressive feedback loops, and demographic change.
Why Republicans Should Be Really Scared
African-Americans - We Are Not All of Us Alike
East and South Asian Americans - Diverse and Growing
West Asian Americans - Rapid Change
Native Americans - Increasing Participation
Islander Americans - In Need of More Representation
Alaskan Natives - An Economic Factor?
Latino Americans - Increasing Influence
Tomorrow: The 'American' American Electorate: You Might Be Surprised
Cross posted at DailyKos.