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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)

Abstract

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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