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
Date Written: March 24, 2013
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
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