Harvard Study Connects Google Search Results to Racially Biased Voting in ’08

A doctorate candidate at the Ivy League university performed a study highlighting hidden racial attitudes among voters

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,” 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,” 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.”

Read more at The Grio…

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