Race and Religion at the Ballot Box

Race and Religion at the Ballot Box

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The color of a candidate’s skin failed to sway voters to depress the lever for either Obama or McCain in the 2008 election, immediate analyses of that contest seemed to suggest. Some pundits hailed it as the first postracial election. But a closer look after the election has revealed a much more nuanced picture of that historic faceoff. It turns out that as many as a fifth of the voters cared about race more than other considerations like gender, endorsements by a local newspaper or a candidate’s political party.

A study by political scientist Brian F. Schaffner at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in the journal Political Psychology showed that concerns about race may have meant that Obama procured 3 percent less of the vote than he would have if he were white—enough to decide an election in a close race.

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