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Surprising Science

Barack Obama Polarized Race in America

In the current issue of the Boston Review, Charles H. Stewart III and Stephen Ansolabehere, two MIT professors, argue that the election of Barack Obama was hardly evidence of a post-racial age. Instead, as exit poll data indicates, Obama was elected “precisely because of his race” — by African-American voters who turned out in record numbers.

This data leads Stewart and Ansolabehere to conclude that, “racial polarization in American voting patterns was the highest it has been since the 1984 election.” As noted in an MIT news release, the percentage of blacks voting Democratic rose from 88 percent in 2004 to 95 percent in 2008 and Hispanics voting Democratic rose from 56 percent to 67 percent, meaning that it was nonwhites who were the decisive factor in the election. Strangely, the youth vote was only 18 percent of the total — nowhere near the highs of 1972 and 1992, and thus had virtually no impact on Obama’s victory. Of greater significance were voting patterns of those 25-30 years old, according to the release. And of benefit to the Democratic party, these “older young” are likely to remain loyally Democratic for years to come. How do you feel about whether Obama represents a new-way of dealing with race in America. Check out Newark mayor Cory Booker’s ideas on the topic here. And you can watch MIT professor Charles Stewart on race and the 2008 election here.


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