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Publication Date

2011-06-03

Availability

UM campus only

Embargo Period

2011-06-03

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Sociology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2011-05-05

First Committee Member

Jomills Braddock

Second Committee Member

Marvin Dawkins

Third Committee Member

Krysia Mossakowski

Fourth Committee Member

Donald Spivey

Abstract

The 2008 election of Barack Obama to the United States’ presidency is an undeniable historical landmark demonstrating progress in race relations; however, it has yet to be determined how the election affects the way in which racial minorities are viewed and whether Obama’s presidency will advance their societal position. Despite some claims that the election signifies the existence of a post-racial nation, recent social (Harlow 2008; Hunt and Wilson 2009; Parker, Sawyer, Towler 2009; Tesler 2010), psychological (Effron, Cameron, and Monin 2009; Eibach, and Purdie-Vaughns 2009; Kaiser et al. 2009), political (Piston 2001; Huddy and Feldman 2009; Redlawsk, Tolbert, and Franco 2010), economic (Jacobson 2010; Lewis-Beck and Tien (2009) and legal (Nelson 2009; Troutt 2009) research predicts that the election will have little effect, or potentially a negative impact, on efforts to achieve racial parity in America. To assess what President Obama’s election means for American race relations, this study examines multiple measures of prejudice among Whites as predictors of their support for racial equality. Using data from the American National Election Studies (ANES), I examine different forms of racism, and the extent to which they influence Whites’ support of government policies that promote racial equality. The focal independent variable, racial ideology, is measured by old-fashioned racism, systemic racism, symbolic racism, laissez-faire racism, and color-blind racism. The focal dependent variable, race-based policy preferences, is measured through support for government policies which promote racial equity in education and employment contexts. Factor analysis is used to identify how Whites’ feelings towards Obama, reaction to Obama’s election victory, feelings towards Blacks, outlook on black presidents in general, and beliefs concerning political power differentials between Blacks and Whites relate to different theoretical racial ideologies. Racial orientations that are indicated by measured variables then serve as focal independent variables in multiple regression analysis to predict the focal outcome variables concerning support for policies that foster racial equality. Factor analysis and regression analysis are conducted with pre-election, post-election, and recent data in order to assess change in Whites’ racial attitudes and policy preferences at various points in time. Results from the analysis suggest differences before and after the election in terms of racist ideology and support for programs that benefit racial minorities. Whites are now less likely to agree with the implementation of affirmative action and government policy supporting racial equality. Systemic and color-blind racist ideologies are the strongest predictors of opposition to race-based policy. Furthermore, it seems antiracist ideology has diminished since President Obama was elected. These findings are consistent with sociological and political research that suggests Whites’ opposition to racial policies and black candidates is often more influenced by symbolic racism than by realistic self-interest (Sears and Henry 2003) and confirms predictions (Bonilla-Silva and Ray 2009; Metzler 2010) that Obama’s presidency coupled with new forms of racism, such as color-blind racism, may serve to negatively affect racial equality in the United States.

Keywords

racism; race-based policy preferences; 2008 presidential election; affirmative action; equality; Barack Obama

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