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Search Terms Predict Impact of Racism on US Election

Hugh Pickens writes (1984118) writes | about 2 years ago

Google 1

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Garance Franke-Ruta writes about a new study of racially charged search terms on Google that aims to predict the effects of the Bradley effect, a theory proposed to explain observed discrepancies between voter opinion polls and election outcomes in some US elections where a white candidate and a non-white candidate run against each other. "How much we are under-representing people who are intolerant and therefore unlikely to vote for Obama is an open question," says Andrew Kohut, the president of Pew Research Center. "I suspect not a great deal, but maybe some. And 'maybe some' could be crucial in a tight election." The study found that the percentage of an area's total Google searches from 2004-2007 that included the racially charged search for the word "n****r" is a is a large and robust negative predictor of Obama's vote share. "A one standard deviation increase in an area's racially charged search is associated with a 1.5 percentage point decrease in Obama's vote share, controlling for John Kerry's vote share," writes Stephens-Davidowitz in the study. "The statistical significance and large magnitude are robust to controls for changes in unemployment rates; home-state candidate preference; Census division fixed effects; prior trends in presidential voting; changes in Democratic House vote shares; swing state status; and demographic controls." The results imply that, relative to the most racially tolerant areas in the United States, prejudice cost Obama between 3.1 percentage points and 5.0 percentage points (PDF) of the national popular vote in the 2008 election. This implies racial animus gave Obama's opponent roughly the equivalent of a home-state advantage country-wide. "It cannot come as a shock to anyone that Obama is not seen as the cat's meow in places like West Virginia, southern Mississippi or southern Oklahoma," writes Franke-Ruta. "Where racial animus might intersect with the Electoral College to matter — eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania, parts of Florida — on Election Day is something to contemplate.""

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