HuffPost – Race Bias and the 2008 Presidential Election

Implicit (Unconscious) Race Bias and the 2008 Presidential Election: Does Obama Stand a Chance? — Part I

by Gregory S. Parks
Posted February 4, 2008 | 11:59 PM (EST)

For the past several months, Jeffrey Rachlinski (Cornell Law School professor) and I have been working on an article about unconscious race & gender bias and the presidential election. I think, maybe wrongly, that this work is pretty interesting.

One of our basic arguments is that Obama has a serious uphill battle on his hand, which I assume most people know. But I don’t think people make sense of this through the lens of implicit race bias. Political scientists and political psychologists have found that whites tend not to vote for black political candidates. Thus, the success of black candidates is positively correlated with the proportion of blacks in the population. Where there are more blacks in an electoral area, black candidates are more likely to be elected to office. In areas dominated by whites, black electoral success is rare. Not all researchers have found an interactive effect of voter and candidate race. Those who have not, however, have indicated one major methodological shortcoming of their, respective, studies — the possibility that study respondents were not honest about their opposition to black candidates. As such, a better predictor of the role that race plays in voter decision-making would be their implicit attitudes about race. With that in mind, let me make a few points:

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