Native American month not enough to affect presidential campaign
NOVEMBER is Native American month in the USA. But, there is little evidence that either Presidential candidate is courting the Native American vote in this election, as few live in key battleground states.
“Native Americans are disadvantaged,” says professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Barry Burden.
“They are not a group targeted by the campaigns, though both campaigns would love to have their vote, they are not a large share of the vote.
“Since they have historically voted at lower rates, their votes aren’t viewed as pivotal in the way Hispanics, senior citizens … and some other groups may be,” he told NativeVote.org.
Making up around 1.5% of the US population, Native Americans have a voter registration and turn-out rate well below the average of most other ethnic groups.
According to the National Congress of American Indians over 30% of eligible Native Americans did not even register to vote in the 2008 election.
Barack Obama visited the Crow Nation in Montana during his 2008 campaign for the White House, which earned him the name ‘Barack Black Eagle’ as he was ceremonially adopted into the tribe.
However, it did not win him enough votes to edge McCain out of, what was then, the battleground state of Montana.
Indeed, the visit was seen as a strategic move by pundits, as its population is just over 5% Native American.
In this election, the key states for the candidates have much smaller Native American populations:
Nevada, with a native population of around 2%, which is just over the national average, is the only tightly contested state where significant numbers of Native Americans live.
In Ohio, the state pundits are suggesting will decide the next inhabitant of the White House, only 0.3% of potential voters are Native American.
The states with the largest Native American vote are Hawaii at 29%, which includes Pacific Island peoples and Alaska at 15%.
These are respectively solidly Democrat and Republican and therefore not priorities for either candidate in terms of campaigning.
In his 2012 State of Indian Nations Speech, NCAI President Jefferson Keel said:
“For us, it’s ‘I’ for Indian. We are independent voters and we will continue to vote for the candidate who is strong on our issues, and cares about our priorities.”
Nevertheless, like most ethnic minorities in the USA, Native Americans tend to support the Democrat candidate.
Campaign donation figures have illustrated this support in the 2012 election as Native American tribal organisations have contributed $2.5 million to the Obama campaign but only $750,000 to Romney’s.
However, these amounts are out of a total of $934 million raised by Obama and $880 million raised by Romney, so still represent only a tiny fraction of the two parties’ total fundraising efforts.