1. News & Issues
Nadra Kareem Nittle

Study Finds Link Between Political Preference and Racism

By January 24, 2013

Follow me on:

Following the civil rights movement, there was no strong link between racism and the political parties Americans supported, according to Brown University political scientist Michael Tesler. But that changed in 2008.

"The election of the country's first black president had the ironic upshot of opening the door for old-fashioned racism to influence partisan preferences after it was long thought to be a spent force in American politics," Tesler writes in the Journal of Politics.

Political scientists typically define "old-fashioned racism" as belief in the biological inferiority of blacks to justify practices such as racial segregation and discrimination. AlterNet reports. Tesler measured the amount of old-fashioned racism voters harbored by examining their attitudes on interracial dating. He found that the more discomfort voters had with interracial relationships the more likely they were to vote against Barack Obama. He did not find great evidence of racism when voters were asked to choose between Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Tesler also examined the 2010 mid-term election results, finding that racism influenced voters to oppose Democratic Congressional candidates that year. During the 2006 mid-term elections, though, racism had  "relatively little impact on white Americans' voting behavior."

The bad news is that Tesler predicts that "enhanced polarization of white partisanship" will "leave a lasting mark on American politics that endures after [Obama] leaves office." He also predicts that there will be a rise in racist political talk and that Americans who buy into such rhetoric will tend to believe that the Democratic Party doesn't represent them, AlterNet reports.

"The evidence suggests that Obama simultaneously activates both old-fashioned racism and (21st-century) racial resentment," Tesler writes. "The most plausible explanation for that dual activation is that Obama independently taps into both the classic symbolic racism theme that blacks have too much influence in politics, and old-fashioned racists' concerns about the leadership of a president from a racial group whom they consider to be intellectually and socially inferior."




February 1, 2013 at 9:25 pm
(1) Robert says:

I would agree that Obama being elected kind of “blew the lid” off of the degree of racism which exists in the US… but it also showed that younger people are less racist than their elders…

The problem the republican party will have is this… they are a party of aging, white, suburban, rural fear based people… this is their base. As demographics continue to shift to a younger, more ethnically diverse, more urban and more accepting of differences, they will become less and less relevant. The country is becoming more socially liberal. The fact that gay marriage has been gaining ground is proof of this.

Republicans are aware of this.

Which is one reason that they are looking at changing how the Electoral College votes.

They are looking at it being less a winner take all and more based on percentage of votes based on congressional districts. They prefer congressional districts because in states controlled by republicans and in many of the “battle ground states” the congressional districts have been drawn to minimize minority and democratic votes.

Will reactionary thinking go away… no.

It will always be apart of the social debate because it is part of the way human being think. Most of us resort to it when we are “afraid”. The pendulum has always swung between more openness and more reactionary forces in humanity. Luckily over the last few hundred years… we have become more and more inclusive in this county in who we define as humans.

But reactionary, black/white, simplistic thinking is just one of those qualities of being human… it can be found in all groups, in all races, in all genders, in all religions.

It is found in all of us… to some degree. But the less afraid we become… the less we need to resort to it…

Interesting as always


Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>
  1. About.com
  2. News & Issues
  3. Race Relations

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.