President Obama and the Intensification of Black Threat from 2008 to 2012

44 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2014 Last revised: 5 Aug 2014

Date Written: March 14, 2014


Extant research shows Barack Obama’s emergence on the national political scene stirred racist sentiments in some whites’ political attitudes and behaviors. During his first four years of presidential leadership, national rhetoric focused increasingly on racial issues. This created more salient frames that encouraged Americans to link local demographics to national politics. We test if this resulted in greater racial animus among whites with an investigation of black threat theory in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. In 2012, whites were less likely to vote for Obama as black concentration increased in their counties of residence. The 2008 data show weaker evidence of a relationship. Whites living in the poorest counties drive this result and real or perceived changes in the economy do not explain it away. Feelings of black threat among whites have intensified as racial issues have increasingly come to the forefront of national political discourse.

Keywords: Obama, Black Threat, Politicized Places Hypothesis

Suggested Citation

Bafumi, Joseph and Greer, Christina M., President Obama and the Intensification of Black Threat from 2008 to 2012 (March 14, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Joseph Bafumi (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College ( email )

Department of Sociology
Hanover, NH 03755
United States

Christina M. Greer

Fordham University ( email )

113 West 60th Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

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