Although most of us like to think optimistically about the national character, it looks like racism did cost Obama, at least according to a new economic study by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. Since Obama had such a commanding victory on election night ’08, most people didn’t notice that there was something a little off about the results. It turns out, though, that Obama should have won buy as much as 3-5 percentage points more if it weren’t for anti-Black racism, meaning he could have gotten as much as 58.7% of the popular vote, as opposed to the 53.7% that he received.
The way that the author was able to disentangle the effects of race was by looking at Google searches by region. He rated different regions as more or less racist based on how many objectively racist searches were performed in that region. He then compared Obama’s vote total to Kerry’s from 2004, finding that Obama gained fewer votes in racist regions.
This study comes as racial tensions continue to divide American society. Just recently, a Kentucky church banned interracial couples and Republican strategist Pat Buchanan histrionically wrote that “White America Is Doomed.” Under this backdrop of racism and the curtailing of civil rights, it’s easier to see what the study proves: that some people are so uncomfortable voting for a black man that they’ll go against their own self-interest to avoid doing so.
Looking forward, this could spell big trouble for Obama in 2012. Since his approval ratings have been stagnant and below 50%, he is going to need all the help that he can get. This means that Obama’s not going to be dealing with only a bad economy, a do-nothing Congress, and an unenthused base, but he also will have a 3-5% handicap. I guess all we can do is hope for Newt Gingrich to win the nomination.
Photo credit: borman818's Flickr stream.