Do Explicit Racial Cues Influence Candidate Preference? The Case of Skin Complexion in the 2008 Campaign

38 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 31 Aug 2010

See all articles by Shanto Iyengar

Shanto Iyengar

Stanford University - Department of Communication

Kyu S. Hahn

Seoul National University

Solomon Messing

Pew Research Center - Data Labs

Jeremy N. Bailenson

Stanford University - Department of Communication

Date Written: 2010

Abstract

Skin color is an explicit racial cue. Although there is strong evidence linking darker skin complexion to the activation of racial stereotypes and adverse societal outcomes, little is known about the extent to which this effect is in play during political campaigns. If white voters make use of this skin complexion cue, we would expect exposure to darker images of a minority candidate to result in a “dark-skin penalty” at the ballot box. We investigate the impact of skin complexion on support for Barack Obama at two different stages of the 2008 campaign: Study 1 occurred during the primary campaign and Study 2 during the closing stages of the general election. Our findings suggest that when citizens are still learning about a minority candidate’s personal background, subtle changes in skin complexion can have an effect on evaluations of that candidate and that citizens with higher levels of implicit racial bias are less likely to prefer a darker-skinned minority candidate.

Suggested Citation

Iyengar, Shanto and Hahn, Kyu S. and Messing, Solomon and Bailenson, Jeremy N., Do Explicit Racial Cues Influence Candidate Preference? The Case of Skin Complexion in the 2008 Campaign (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1643225

Shanto Iyengar (Contact Author)

Stanford University - Department of Communication ( email )

CA
United States
650-723-5509 (Phone)
650-723-6933 (Fax)

Kyu S. Hahn

Seoul National University ( email )

Kwanak-gu
Seoul, 151-742
Korea, Republic of (South Korea)

Solomon Messing

Pew Research Center - Data Labs ( email )

1615 L St NW #800
Washington, DC 20036
United States

HOME PAGE: http://solomonmessing.wordpress.com

Jeremy N. Bailenson

Stanford University - Department of Communication ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-2050
United States

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