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Obama and 2012: Still a Racial Cost to Pay?

  • Charles Tien (a1), Richard Nadeau (a2) and Michael S. Lewis-Beck (a3)

Will President Obama lose votes in 2012 because of racial prejudice? For 2008, we estimated, via a carefully controlled, national survey-based study, that on balance he lost about five percentage points in popular vote share due to intolerance for his race on the part of some voters. What about 2012? There are at least three possibilities: (1) the presidency has become postracial, and the vote will register no racial cost; (2) intolerance has increased, and the vote will register an increased racial cost; and (3) intolerance has decreased, and the vote will register a decreased racial cost. Our evidence, drawn from an analysis comparable to that carried out for 2008, suggests Obama will pay a racial cost of three percentage points in popular vote share. In other words, his candidacy will experience a decrease in racial cost, if a small one. In 2008, this racial cost denied Obama a landslide victory. In the context of a closer election in 2012, this persistent racial cost, even smaller in size, could perhaps cost him his reelection.

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Jeffrey Dixon . 2006. “The Ties That Bind and Those That Don't: Toward Reconciling Group Threat and Contact theories of Prejudice.” Social Forces 84: 2179–204.

Todd Donovan . 2010. “Obama and the White Vote.” Political Research Quarterly 63: 863–74.

Jonathan Knuckey . 2011. “Racial Resentment and Vote Choice in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election.” Politics & Policy 39: 559–82.

Michael S. Lewis-Beck , William Jacoby , Helmut Norpoth , and Herbert Weisberg . 2008. The American Voter Revisited. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Spencer Piston . 2010. “How Explicit Racial Prejudice Hurt Obama in the 2008 Election.” Political Behavior 32: 431–51.

Matthew Streb , Barbara Burrell , Brian Frederick , and Michael A. Genovese . 2008. “Social Desirability Effects and Support for a Female American President.” Public Opinion Quarterly 72: 7689.

Marylee C. Taylor 1998. “How White Attitudes Vary with the Racial Composition of Local Populations: Numbers Count.” American Sociological Review 63: 512–35.

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PS: Political Science & Politics
  • ISSN: 1049-0965
  • EISSN: 1537-5935
  • URL: /core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics
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