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How race affects attitudes towards Obama, health care


On the one hand, you don't want to make too much of this sort of thing. On the other hand, you don't want to totally ignore it, either:

According to a recent study by researchers from Stanford and the University of California at Irvine, negative views of the president do appear be correlated with racial bias. The problem with the Democracy Corps study, they say, is that it relied on its subjects to talk candidly about race. "People may fail to report the influence of race on their judgments," the researchers wrote, " … because they are unaware of it -- and might not acknowledge it even if they were aware of it."

To better measure people's "implicit" (or unconscious) prejudice, the California researchers asked those in the study to quickly sort stereotypically "black" and "white" words and names (Tyrone and Shaniqua vs. Brett and Jane) into positive and negative categories. They found that individuals displaying above-average levels of racial prejudice on this task were 42.5 percent less likely to have voted for Obama than those with average scores.

The researchers also found a negative correlation between racial prejudice and support for Obama's health-care reform effort. As a further test of this relationship, the researchers divided study participants into two groups and read both groups a health-care reform plan -- but one group was told that the policy was Obama's, while the other group was told that it was Bill Clinton's 1993 plan. Those subjects with higher levels of racial bias were more negative about the plan when it was attributed to Obama.

You could try and explain this away, of course: Obama and his health-care plan are polarizing right now, while Clinton isn't. But the results are troubling, and a reminder that we have real problems with race in this country, even as some prefer to manufacture fake outrage over accurate statements uttered by Harry Reid.

Photo credit: By Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

By Ezra Klein  |  January 11, 2010; 12:02 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama , Political Science , Polls  
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You forgot that Clinton's health care plan was extremely unpopular. It was so unpopular that it didn't pass.

Posted by: maritza1 | January 11, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

So, if think that "Shaniqua" is a terrible name to burden a child with (along with "Rainbow" or "Shasta" or "Dudley" or "Buffy") then I'm a racist, or have hidden racist tendencies, and that's why I didn't vote for Obama?

Interesting. And I didn't vote for the previous Democrat because he was a New Englander? And I didn't vote for Al Gore, a man from my home state, because I'm a self-hating Tennessean?

Given a choice, I prefer the name "Obama" to the name "Tyrone". Or the name "Dudley". Does this reveal a hidden prejudice against Canadian mounties?

Seriously, no wonder the study finds hidden racism and racists everywhere--the assumptions of the study are explicitly racist.

And isn't the implication that the people who voted for Obama who now have a more negative opinion are now more racist because their view of Obama has changed? Is there any way, under this regime, to have a negative opinion of Obama and/or his policies and not have it be racist?

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 11, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I think Ezra, Obama Administration and many Democrats; we all are wasting time in discussing such things when everyone wants to avoid the big elephant in the room.

If Economy was doing good, these things would not matter and even Health Care Reform would have fared better.

People are angry because when the original impression was that HCR is Obama's pet project which some how would get done in 2009; but due to petty politics in Senate that did not happy as well as Obama WH ignored handling it fast. Now, with every passing day in 2010, people understand that some 'fancy' project (howsoever legitimate it is and I grudgingly support HCR) of Democrats is coming in between of their daily livelihood.

Folks are talking 'double recession', continued job losses, increasing deficit (but no new taxes on rich) and no credits to Small Business. While all this is happening, Democrats are back to the grind.

To improve Economy, generally majority are also coming to a view that so far policy of Obama WH to 'sleep with Bankers' needs to stop. This means:
- Geither to go, Bernanke not to be re-appointed and
- Fed to be mandated again with specific focus while
- Congress and WH get back to 'jobs and economy'.

You can talk all you want all these 'race' and 'Reid remarks' and all other non-issues. You can all criticize folks who are so single focus on Economy. But at the end, unless our rulers deal with this 'elephant in the room'; nothing matters.

(I thought your blog was more about Economy....)

Posted by: umesh409 | January 11, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

so with a 70% approval rating upon assuming office, I guess that support was inordinately from people of color? I think not.

Just more of the institutionalized racism of the Left. Victimology 101.

Posted by: oceanaris | January 11, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Race is the reason that "New Deal" was both the name of a political program and the governing coalition that dominated American politics for more than 40 years while the New Deal's first cousin, the "Great Society," was a flop that split the New Deal coalition and gave rise to 40 years of conservative Republican dominance.

Why did the New Deal succeed where the Great Society failed? Because LBJ worked hard to extend the benefits of the activist nation-state to marginalized minorities shut out of the American Dream while FDR didn't.

People are more apt to support programs that benefit their kind while they consider programs that benefit "outsiders" to be wasteful, oppressive and unjust. Remember, the price of getting Society Security through Congress in 1935 was caving into Southern demands that the program's benefits not extend to blacks. This was accomplished by exempting from Social Security benefits all agricultural workers at a time when most blacks were Southern tenant farmers.

I am not saying that conservatives are racists. I am merely saying that our "compassionate conservatism," our willingess to sacrifice for others or contribute to their welfare through taxes steadily declines the more we are asked to give those outside our particular group.

Liberal politics only work in communities where members feel a bond, a kinship of one kind or other, an obligation to one another -- all feelings which are strong within the family, the clan and the tribe but weak outside it.

That is why those who want to avoid contributing to the activist welfare state -- say the billionaire owner of FOX News -- will always be tempted to protect their fortunes by finding ways of driving wedges between the races so as to destroy that sense of community that often translates into higher taxes on those with the ability to pay. Murdoch doesn't take his racism personally. For him it's just business.

Posted by: TedFrier | January 11, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

How dare you even mention race, Ezra. Clearly, you're the racist here. After all, to the folks on the right, we must never, ever talk about race, then everything will be fine.

It was ever so. Even when they fighting tooth-and-nail against voting rights for blacks 50 years ago. It was never about racism--just about states rights, and order.

See, to folks like oceanaris, it's not the hooded guys doing the lynching that are the racists: the real racists are the one's registering the black folk to vote.

Posted by: antontuffnell | January 11, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

"I am not saying that conservatives are racists."

Exactly. They're just hard-working Americans, who are normal in every way--only with a sociopathic absence of anything that could be construed as empathy.

Posted by: antontuffnell | January 11, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I find this a REDICULOUS study. Any sane person should realize that people's partisan emotions are always much higher towards a current politician than a historical one (even near-term ones).

Posted by: truth5 | January 11, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Gotta love this post. In less than one day, Ezra asserts that identifying light skin and a Negro dialect is not racist, but identifying black-sounding names is.

Posted by: tomtildrum | January 11, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, "black names" essentially characterize social class. Most higher socioeconomic-status blacks of my acquaintance gave their children "mainstream" first names. There are also lower-SES "white" names.

Posted by: Frank43 | January 12, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

"Tyrone"--good Irish name! (Does County Tyrone sound familiar to anyone?) Or, to classic movie lovers, Tyrone Power. In other words, I wouldn't consider that name more typical of any race. The same thing goes for "Jane," one of the most long-time common women's names in English-speaking countries.

Posted by: CherieOK | January 13, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Stop with the racial thing. It is just trying to waste time.The reason nothing is getting done in this country is because people spend too much time on nonsense.This health care scam is unconstitutional and should have been kicked aside long ago so this government can get together on more important issue.Political correct is destroying America.
Get our jobs back to America, so we can take care of ourselves without this government on our backs 24-7. We do not want welfare.we want to pay our own way. This group in office refuse to work together, or work at all is how we see it. They have to start acting like adults instead of being so immature in the way they all think. Hurray for me the hell with you is their attitude. It has to stop.
It is getting too expensive to have politicians sitting around arguing about all their pork.It is sick what they have done to our country because of all their immoral, evil, corrupt, greedy ways. We can no longer afford to pay for their high maintenance way of life. If things keep up, we will wind up like Haiti without the earthquakes. This is not the change we all expected. Can't you see, you will all go down with us if this keeps up.

Posted by: peggydlhk | January 14, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

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