By Caryn Freeman of The Grio
A Harvard University PhD candidate has conducted a study that may explain why polling data in political races with black candidates has been so unpredictable, and it indicates that race was a negative factor in the 2008 election.
Election results for black candidates have been historically hard to predict, and anyone involved in a campaign knows that getting voters to answer honestly in any poll can be difficult, particularly when it comes to uncomfortable questions like whether the race of a candidate could impact a person’s vote. The study, titled “The effects of racial animus on a black Presidential candidate: Using Google search data to find what surveys miss,â€ may have uncovered a way for pollsters and campaigns to understand where the margin of error rests in races with African-American candidates.
Researcher Seth Stephens-Davidowitz examined Google data for search terms indicating racial animus and compared that data in regions where Obama did well, or did poorly, in the 2008 election. The results: Davidowitz found that “between 6.7 and 10.7 percent of white Democrats did not support Barack Obama in 2008 because he was black,â€ despite the fact that “among whites who told researchers in 2008 and 2010 that they voted for Kerry in 2004, 2.6 percent said they would not vote for a black president.â€