Obama facing 20 pc ‘handicap’ due to race bias among voters

      An online study of eligible voters around the United States has revealed that the preference for white over black is the strongest among least politically partisan voters. Among these voters, race biases against President Barack Obama could produce as much as a 20 percent gap in the popular vote in a contest that would otherwise be equal.

“Although they may not determine the election outcome, race biases are having a strong anti-Obama effect among the least politically partisan voters,” Anthony Greenwald, a University of Washington psychology professor who conducted the survey, said. “If present pre-election polling is accurate, the effect of racial attitudes will have their effect on Barack Obama’s winning margin but not on the election outcome,” Greenwald added.

Most recent polls show Obama in the lead. This suggests that although race biases are a “hill he has to climb, the polls indicate that he’s actually climbing it,” Greenwald said. “People who have race biases against Obama may still believe he’s preferable to Mitt Romney for other reasons, and so race attitudes do not appear to be potent enough to overcome the other sources of favorability for Obama,” he added.

The study included the Implicit Association Test to measure implicit racial attitudes, which are preferences that people may not realize they have. In the past decade, various adaptations of the tool have been used to reveal unconscious attitudes about race, gender, sexuality, ethnicities and other topics. In addition to implicit and self-reported measures on race attitudes and demographic characteristics, Greenwald included various measures of political beliefs, including stances on policy issues such as taxes on the wealthy, immigration and health care. He took a closer look at the race attitudes for the 25 percent who were least polarized — having no strong affiliations with either political party.

The research showed that race attitudes were influencing the choice of candidate for nearly 10 percent of these voters. If 10 percent of voters switched their vote for or against a candidate, that would cause an increase of 20 percent in the gap between candidates. “Our method was like putting a magnifying glass on the distribution of voters, allowing us a close-up look at various segments,” Greenwald said.

Greenwald points out that any Democratic presidential candidate, including white ones, faces a race attitude handicap. This is because voters with white racial preferences are typically opposed to social and economic policies favored by national Democratic nominees.

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