Barking Up the Wrong Tree: Why Bo Won’t Fetch Many Votes for Barack Obama in 2012
Forthcoming, PS: Political Science & Politics, Cambridge University Press, 2013
32 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2012 Last revised: 10 Jan 2013
Date Written: June 11, 2012
In “The Dog that Didn't Bark: The Role of Canines in the 2008 Campaign,” Diana Mutz (2010) argues that dog ownership made voters significantly less likely to vote for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. We examine this claim further. While President Obama has owned a dog since shortly after his 2008 election, we argue that Bo’s presence will not do much to improve his owner’s chances of being reelected in 2012. Rather, the apparent significance of dog ownership is due largely to key variables being omitted from the analysis. Using the same data, we show that Obama didn’t so much have trouble with dog owners as he had trouble with conservative, rural, Southern whites, who, for reasons we examine, are more likely than other Americans to own dogs. While we recognize the tongue-in-jowl tone of portions of Mutz’s article, this tale is an important one, and is consistent with recent research linking racial attitudes to levels of support for Barack Obama. We also argue that while scholars are often wise to include control variables such as “South” in studies of political attitudes and behavior, it is important to consider the variety of politically-relevant characteristics that such variables may be capturing.
Keywords: race, politics, Barack Obama, prejudice, racism, voting behavior, dogs, 2008 presidential election
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