The Cost of Racial Animus on a Black Presidential Candidate: Using Google Search Data to Find What Surveys Miss

55 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2013

See all articles by Seth I. Stephens-Davidowitz

Seth I. Stephens-Davidowitz

Harvard University - Department of Economics; Google Inc.

Date Written: March 24, 2013

Abstract

How can we know how much racial animus costs a black candidate if few will admit such socially unacceptable attitudes to surveys? I suggest a new proxy for an area’s racial animus from a non-survey source: the percent of Google search queries that include racially charged language. I compare the proxy to Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 vote shares, controlling for the vote share of the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry. Previous research using a similar specification but survey proxies for racial attitudes yielded little evidence that racial attitudes affected Obama. An area’s racially charged search rate, in contrast, is a robust negative predictor of Obama’s vote share. Continuing racial animus in the United States appears to have cost Obama roughly four percentage points of the national popular vote in both 2008 and 2012, giving his opponent the equivalent of a home-state advantage nationally.

Keywords: discrimination, voting, Google

Suggested Citation

Stephens-Davidowitz, Seth I., The Cost of Racial Animus on a Black Presidential Candidate: Using Google Search Data to Find What Surveys Miss (March 24, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2238851 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2238851

Seth I. Stephens-Davidowitz (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Google Inc. ( email )

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