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Race of Interviewer Effects and Barack Obama: Data from the 2008 General Election Campaign
Unformatted Document Text:  23 economic status, might have reduced initial support; but, the extent to which he needs such support or how he might overcome this hurdle without diminishing his white base of support will be an interesting challenge as his long-term national political career evolves. Second, as expected, race of interviewer effects or self-monitoring occurs primarily among white respondents. To the extent that Barack Obama is perceived as deracialized candidate and not a threat to the racial status of whites, African Americans who are supportive of Obama may have no real pressure to conceal their support for him. By contrast, racialized presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson whom whites disliked and perceived as threatening to the racial status quo, are more likely to be stereotyped as overly representing black interests (McDermott 1997), and are viewed through a racially prejudiced lens (Kinder and McConnaughy 2006). Third, the framing and racial labeling of deracialized candidates like Barack Obama has a powerful influence on how he is perceived by white respondents. Specifically, framing Barack Obama as “African American,” as opposed to “Black,” diminishes his support. Our explanation of this result is that whites perceive a certain amount of concern in racial labels. The “African American” label seems to convey difference and resistant to American acculturation; thereby, challenging whites’ beliefs about conformity and acceptance of American identity and core Protestant values. Because this label reduces the support for Barack Obama our results suggests that pursuing a deracialized campaign strategy might be appropriate to appeal to white voters. Of course, the dilemma remains just how to simultaneously appeal to black voters. African American respondents in the data were actually more supportive of Obama when he was labeled as African American; hence, the “double edged” sword for racial minority candidates. Lastly, we find that attaching threatening racial labels to Senator Obama not only reduces support, but it is exacerbated when the interviewer is black. That is, in response to disagreeable or disconcerting labels whites become more sensitive to social norms and voice less support for

Authors: Wilson, David.
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23 
economic status, might have reduced initial support; but, the extent to which he needs such support 
or how he might overcome this hurdle without diminishing his white base of support will be an 
interesting challenge as his long-term national political career evolves. 
 
Second, as expected, race of interviewer effects or self-monitoring occurs primarily among 
white respondents. To the extent that Barack Obama is perceived as deracialized candidate and not a 
threat to the racial status of whites, African Americans who are supportive of Obama may have no 
real pressure to conceal their support for him. By contrast, racialized presidential candidates like 
Jesse Jackson whom whites disliked and perceived as threatening to the racial status quo, are more 
likely to be stereotyped as overly representing black interests (McDermott 1997), and are viewed 
through a racially prejudiced lens (Kinder and McConnaughy 2006).   
 
Third, the framing and racial labeling of deracialized candidates like Barack Obama has a 
powerful influence on how he is perceived by white respondents. Specifically, framing Barack 
Obama as “African American,” as opposed to “Black,” diminishes his support.  Our explanation of 
this result is that whites perceive a certain amount of concern in racial labels. The “African 
American” label seems to convey difference and resistant to American acculturation; thereby, 
challenging whites’ beliefs about conformity and acceptance of American identity and core 
Protestant values. Because this label reduces the support for Barack Obama our results suggests that 
pursuing a deracialized campaign strategy might be appropriate to appeal to white voters. Of course, 
the dilemma remains just how to simultaneously appeal to black voters.  African American 
respondents in the data were actually more supportive of Obama when he was labeled as African 
American; hence, the “double edged” sword for racial minority candidates.  
 
Lastly, we find that attaching threatening racial labels to Senator Obama not only reduces 
support, but it is exacerbated when the interviewer is black. That is, in response to disagreeable or 
disconcerting labels whites become more sensitive to social norms and voice less support for 


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