Race and the 2008 Presidential Election
October 8, 2008 | 7:33 AMLynn Vavreck
A year ago, most people thought we’d be facing a presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani; an historic contest because the first woman major party nominee would face off against America’s mayor and a 9/11 hero. Even most political scientists thought this would be the case.
We find ourselves with only 30 days left in another historic presidential election, however, one with the first major party African American nominee running against a Vietnam War hero and former prisoner of war. And, it’s all taking place amidst a global financial crisis of unimagined proportion.
In this context, political scientists have done a lot better in terms of analyses about who will win. Of course, we are all interested in the effect that Obama’s multi-racial background will have on people’s vote choice. Toward this end, as chair of the UCLA Political Science Department’s Public Lecture Series, I am hosting seven talks this Thursday and Friday about race and the election. Early results from several contemporary polling projects will be discussed, including the Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project, which I co-direct.
UCLA has a long and strong history of path-breaking research on the topic of race and politics. David Sears (UCLA Psychology and Political Science) redefined the way scholars (and indeed politicos) think about studying race with his concept of Symbolic Racism. Frank Gilliam (UCLA Dean of the School of Public Affairs and Political Science) uncovered the way the images on TV affects people’s understanding of race, crime, and politics. Both Sears and Gilliam will speak on Thursday in the California Room of the UCLA Faculty Club.
To this distinguished list we bring two methodologists from Stanford University doing cutting edge polling work on this election over the Internet. Doug Rivers is the CEO of YouGov/Polimetrix and a member of the Stanford Political Science Department and a Fellow at the Hoover Institution. Simon Jackman (Stanford University political science and statistics) is my co-principal investigator on the Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project (CCAP), which has been surveying 20,000 people in regular intervals for the last 10 months.
Joining this group will be four UCLA political scientists, assistant professor Lorrie Frasure, associate professor Mark Sawyer (Director of UCLA’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics), and two future UCLA PhDs, Ryan Enos and Michael Tesler.
The complete schedule is listed after this post.
There has been a lot of myth circulating about the effect Obama’s race is likely to have on his vote share, including a recently released AP/YAHOO poll conducted by an institute at Stanford University that found the drain on Obama’s vote share to be an unusually large 6 percentage points. Few of us believe this will be the case. Larry Bartels (Princeton University) estimates the effect to be more like 3 points. Whatever the truth will be, one thing is known with certainty. If Obama underperforms, the polls going into the election, regardless of what the truth is, the media will blame it on his race and American’s racial prejudices. That’s the easy story. As scholars of politics, it is our responsibility to be ready to demonstrate why that is or is not what happened so that we don’t end up with another “it’s moral values” frame as we did after the media misread the exit polling results during the 2004 election.
At this meeting, seven scholars will present and discuss their current research and thoughts about how race and culture interact in this historic election. Please join us; the talks are open to the public and the press. All take place in the California Room of the UCLA Faculty Club.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 9
- 1:30 Lynn Vavreck
- 2:00 David Sears
- 3:00 Simon Jackman
- 4:30 Frank Gilliam and Mark Sawyer
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10
- 9:00 Doug Rivers
- 10:00 Lorrie Frasure
- 11:15 Ryan Enos
- 1:45 Michael Tesler
- 3:00 Discussion
Dean of the UCLA School of Public Affairs and professor of political science.
Professor of education, law, political science and urban plannning.
Professor of urban planning, social welfare, and Asian American studies.
Professor of education and co-director of the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA.
Professor of public policy.
Associate professor of public policy.
Associate professor of political science and director of the UCLA Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics.
Assistant professor-in-residence of medicine.
Assistant professor of political science.
Assistant professor of communication studies.
Ph.D. candidate in political science.
Graduate student in political science.