Googling Anti-Obama Racism
On the night of
Obama's victory did offer at least one gift to conservatives. It gave them a new excuse to tell black Americans to stop complaining about white racism.
In one of the more thoughtful analyses at the time, social scientists
Or was it? The ferocious rise of birthers (who cling to the myth that Obama wasn't really born in
And, more currently, could racism reemerge as a factor significant enough to sink his re-election bid this November in what already is shaping up to be a much tighter race?
Attempts to measure racism are persistently flummoxed, ironically, by the success of the civil rights movement in driving blatant racism underground. We tend to lie about our own racism, not only to pollsters but also to ourselves, even if we have to bend and reshape our definition of the R-word to do it.
Yet, undaunted by this challenge,
Using Google Insights, which tells researchers how often words are searched in different parts of
He used data from 2004 to 2007 to measure regional tastes and attitudes before they were directly influenced by feelings toward Obama. After 2008, the author noted in an opinion piece in the
Then he predicted how many votes Obama should have received based on how many votes 2004 Democratic nominee
His conclusion, as he wrote in the Times: "Add up the totals throughout the country, and racial animus cost Mr. Obama three to five percentage points of the popular vote."
That's more than enough to turn a close election but, you know what? Almost anything is. Unmentioned by the author's unusual study, for example, is how much of a difference prejudice against
And, even presuming Stephens-Davidowitz's study is accurate, the good news for Obama and the nation, in light of our turbulent history with race, is that the bad news isn't worse.
The racially charged web searches are clustered right where any knowledgeable observer would expect them to be, in areas that Obama's campaign has little reason to expect to win.
Topping the list, for example, is
Other high-ranking regions included western
In other words, the
With that in mind, the most hopeful sign for the nation's racial future is not how much race matters in this contest, but how little.
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