The Effects of Racial Animus on a Black Presidential Candidate: Using Google Search Data to Find What Surveys Miss
Seth I. Stephens-Davidowitz
Harvard University - Department of Economics; Google, Inc.
June 9, 2012
How can we know how much racial animus costs black candidates if few voters will admit such socially unacceptable attitudes to surveys? I use a new, non-survey proxy for an area’s racial animus: Google search queries that include racially charged language. I compare the proxy to an area’s votes for Barack Obama, the 2008 black Democratic presidential candidate, controlling for its votes for John Kerry, the 2004 white Democratic presidential candidate. Previous research using a similar specification but survey proxies for racial attitudes yielded little evidence that racial attitudes affected Obama. Racially charged search, in contrast, is a robust negative predictor of Obama’s vote share. My estimates imply that continuing racial animus in the United States cost Obama 3 to 5 percentage points of the national popular vote in 2008, yielding his opponent the equivalent of a home-state advantage country-wide.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 53
Keywords: Race, Voting, Prejudice, Obama
JEL Classification: C80, D72, J15, P16
Date posted: May 4, 2012 ; Last revised: June 11, 2012