When Do Blue and Black Make Red? The Role of Racism in Arkansas's 2008 Presidential Vote
23 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 24 Aug 2010
Date Written: 2010
Anointed in both 2000 and 2004 as a “battleground state” (and indeed ultimately awarding only single-digit wins to Republicans in both years), Arkansas made national headlines in 2008 by rejecting the nationwide winner, Democrat Barak Obama, by a full 20 points. We examine the role of racism in this outcome using a simple list experiment. The experiment was administered such that half of the more than 1,329 white respondents in a statewide random sample were asked how many (of five) statements “troubled” them about Barak Obama; the other half heard a list that differed in only one respect: the item “he has two children” was replaced with “if elected, he will be the first black president.” We find a modest increase in the average number of “troubling” items reported by the latter group. Low income respondents as well as those without a college degree, were more likely than other groups to respond to the racism stimulus. Because partisan and policy-related factors also triggered experimental effects, however, we conclude that Arkansas’s rejection of Obama likely was the product of both principle and prejudice, but disentangling the two remains challenging.
Keywords: public opinion, list experiment, racism
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