As the election looms, there is an interesting discussion going on in academic circles about the impact of race on the outcome.
As in 2008, one candidate is white and the other is black. We know that in 2008 an overwhelming majority of blacks voted for Barack Obama. We also know that whites supported John McCain by a 12-point margin.
Many thought that the election of a black president was a sign of a decline in racial animus in this country. It was often referred to as the threshold to a post-racial America. But was it?
A 2010 study by Michael Tesler and David Sears of UCLA showed that very little changed as result of Obama’s election. Racial resentment affected his campaign, election and evaluations of his presidency and his policies.
That study is reinforced by a second, more recent study by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz of Harvard. He took a unique approach, using data about racially influenced Internet searches, to show that racial animus costs Barack Obama 3 to 5 percentage points of the national popular vote. That racial bias gives the Republican candidate a substantial advantage in the election and creates a difficult hurdle in job approval polling.
The studies I cite can be found at:
• http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~sstephen/papers/RacialAnimusAndVotingSethStephens Davidowitz.pdf
Although it’s unfortunate that racial bias exists in America, it is encouraging to see that it’s as small as these studies suggest. Seems we’re making progress.