Racial Attitudes Predicted Changes in Ostensibly Race‐Neutral Political Attitudes under the Obama Administration

Research paper by Kristjen B. Lundberg, B. Keith Payne, Josh Pasek, Jon A. Krosnick

Indexed on: 09 Mar '16Published on: 01 Nov '15Published in: Political Psychology


Past research demonstrated that racial prejudice played a significant role in the 2008 presidential election, but relatively less is known about the relationship between prejudice and public opinion throughout the Obama administration. In the present research, we examined not only whether racial attitudes were associated with evaluations of Mr. Obama and his administration, but also whether they may have influenced the development of more general political attitudes during the early years of the Obama administration. We investigated this question using panel data from a nationally representative sample of Americans interviewed between September 2008 and July 2010. Racial attitudes measured prior to the election predicted early disapproval of President Obama's handling of important issues. Early disapproval of President Obama's performance, in turn, predicted later perceptions of whether the state of the nation was improving. Further, the divergence between high‐prejudice and low‐prejudice individuals in their perceptions of the state of the nation became greater over time, consistent with the idea that racial attitudes were more powerfully expressed in political judgments as time passed.