Prejudice and the President

April 28, 2011
This is University of Delaware Graduate Student Eric Hehman, left, with Samuel Gaertner professor of psychology. Credit: Ambre Alexander, University of Delaware

Racial prejudice among some white Americans -- even if unintentional -- influences their views of President Barack Obama's "Americanism" and their assessment of how well he is performing in office, according to a University of Delaware doctoral student.

The psychology student, Eric Hehman, recently received the national Albert Bandura Graduate Research Award for his paper detailing a research study he conducted on the subject. The article, "Evaluations of Presidential Performance: Race, Prejudice, and Perceptions of Americanism," was published in the March issue of the .

Hehman, whose adviser and co-author is Samuel Gaertner, professor of psychology, specializes in intergroup relations. He often focuses on such topics as prejudice and discrimination.

The hypothesis for Hehman's paper centered around the possibility that whites' racial prejudices influenced "how American" they perceived Obama to be, which would in turn predict their evaluations of his presidential performance. Furthermore, Hehman predicted that whites would be the only group in which such would ultimately influence their evaluations of performance and that it would affect only their evaluations of the president. He predicted that when whites evaluated Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., or when African Americans evaluated either Obama or Biden, racial prejudices would not affect their assessments.

Hehman collected responses from about 300 white and black members of the UD community, asking them to evaluate the success in office of either Obama or Biden. "Our predictions were ultimately supported," Hehman said. "Whites who were racially prejudiced against blacks saw Obama as 'less American' and subsequently rated him as performing more poorly as president.

"Non-prejudiced whites, and both prejudiced and non-prejudiced blacks, did not do so. Additionally and importantly, this relationship was only found with Obama, and not in evaluations of Biden."

Hehman, whose won a previous national research award for work exploring what characteristics of a person cause others to remember or forget having seen his face before. That study found that, although people tend to recognize members of their own racial group better than those of different races, they are even better at recognizing people of any race if those people are identified as similar to them in some other way, such as being students of the same university.

The idea for his newest research began about a year ago when, Hehman said, he noticed that the criticisms of Obama seemed to go beyond the kinds of criticisms that are commonly heard about presidents' policies and, instead, included some aspects that were "not really based in reality." He said he particularly noticed questions about Obama's birth certificate, his religion and allegations that he was corrupting children with a socialist agenda.

"I found these controversies fairly strange and wondered if the impetus behind them was rooted in racism, manifesting and rationalizing itself in accusations of Obama's 'un-Americanism,'" Hehman said. "Some of [Gaertner's] previous work had dealt with similar issues of where unintentional racial biases influence behavior, often without a person even being aware of such biases, and so investigating this with regard to Obama was a natural step."

He said he hopes his paper will cause readers to see "that even among people who think themselves unprejudiced, unconscious racial prejudices can manifest themselves with extremely important outcomes, such as evaluations of the leader of our country." In addition, Hehman said, "I hope they examine their opinions and behaviors, both political and otherwise, to ensure they are based on a steady foundation of fact, rather than racial uncomfortability or prejudice."

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2.5 / 5 (8) Apr 28, 2011
He said he particularly noticed questions about Obama's birth certificate, his religion and allegations that he was corrupting children with a socialist agenda.

Race is not the issue. Obama has promoted a socialist agenda and he does profess Christianity while promoting Islam.

Obama encouraged questions about his citizenship by his failure to produce a long form birth certificate.
3 / 5 (10) Apr 28, 2011
Equating criticism of Obama to racism denies other valid reasons for the criticism and exposes the latent racism of the questioner.
2.5 / 5 (8) Apr 28, 2011
Equating criticism of Obama to racism denies other valid reasons for the criticism and exposes the latent racism of the questioner.

Yeah, that makes sense. Believing that someone may have racist motivations makes you racist too. Oh wait, that doesn't make sense at all. If I claim you don't like someone because of their race, that doesn't make me racist. The possibility that the criticisms are valid is still present. The study just tries to see if there are other motivations in play. There's definitely a racial element to it. I've seen it just in the few people I've spoken to. They say they don't like Obama's performance and during their explanation I hear multiple allusions to race, often in a rude and demeaning fashion. Even when people voice valid concerns, I see that his race makes them dislike him more than if he were white and making the same policies.
1 / 5 (3) Apr 28, 2011
When did you stop beating your wife?

See, it's all about perspective..
2.1 / 5 (7) Apr 28, 2011
Rubbish article...completely missed the mark!
Does the US taxpayer fund this kind or "research" the middle of the them?
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 29, 2011
Define "Americanism"... I think most wouldn't include 'redistribution of wealth', expansion of government, and energy prices 'neccessarily skyrocketing' as part of 'Americanism'

Maybe this same study should be done regarding the prejudice of coast-dwellers towards someone with a southern accent?
2.3 / 5 (6) Apr 29, 2011
Wow. We have a paper written by a student for a professor that studies prejudice? How is this even noteworthy? This is like taking a commentary ,... aw heck with it. this is just a weak study at best. really.
2.5 / 5 (8) Apr 29, 2011
Trump's and others idiotic obsession with Obama's birth certificate are examples of racial prejudice. If Obama were white they would not be questioning his birth. The same goes for the idiots accusing him of being a muslim. This country is full of stupid people who think their opinions should matter and unfortunately they do.
0.8 / 5 (49) Apr 30, 2011
The fearful fifth aren't going to go away anytime soon. Just let them flail around like retards and make asses out of themselves. They can only win if they actually scare you, and well you kind of have to be stupid for that. That's why they are only a fifth of the population at any given time.
3 / 5 (2) Apr 30, 2011
This is all fine and good but one wonders if the proverbial shoe were on the other foot so to speak whether prejudiced blacks in the past administration would have evaluated GWB any differently than so called non-prejudiced folk.
It could be that folks who are "color blind" also tend to be more liberal and forgiving.
It is curious that those who criticized the former adm. overlook the very same issues with Obama. Bradley Manning, Gitmo, rules of engagement, TSA and on and on and on.
3.5 / 5 (6) May 01, 2011
"Non-prejudiced whites, and both prejudiced and non-prejudiced blacks"

Who on this forum is not prejudiced? Please raise your hands. Every human holds a variety of prejudices whether they realize it or not. Our experiences, our belief systems, heck even our general attitude at different moments in time lead us to these prejudices.

This sounds like a great school project, but is he honestly saying that Obama's poor rating is because he's black? He was voted into office by the American people. When he started, he received a 65% approval rating. It is the same public that now gives a significantly lower approval rating. It is his poor performance and...yes...socialist views that caused all this negativity. If his "Americanism" has become a focus for anger, then so be it. If he performed his job as he ought, then we wouldn't even be having this article.
3 / 5 (4) May 01, 2011
Obama is African American? Wow! I did not know that!

I just thought Obama was a rich Chicago/American politician and not a pollack, spic, kike, wop, cracker, wetback, gook, raghead, chink, kraut, nip, pinko, slope, frog, zipperhead, wanker, mick, etc. Apologies for any group left out. If I omitted your specific group, no racism was intended.
***My apologies to the forgotten genius of Lenny Bruce.***

By the way, if you think that a race is not important, think about how you feel when you lose one.
0.8 / 5 (49) May 01, 2011
So rgwalther, I'm assuming you don't view yourself as a racist, but at the end of your comment you pretty much imply that you are in a race war. How do you mesh these ideas?
3 / 5 (4) May 01, 2011
Frank Herbert,
* Have you actually read the book 'Dune'? or anything else by the genius whose name you share or use.
* Do you know who 'Lenny Bruce' was and why he was destroyed?

Nevermind. Try this; If you want to know what is wrong with being drunk, ask a glass of water.
0.8 / 5 (50) May 01, 2011
You realize the Arabs were the good guys in Dune, right?
3 / 5 (2) May 02, 2011
You realize the Arabs were the good guys in Dune, right?

I see, you think that what Herbert wrote in Dune characterized the 'Fremen' fanatics(or any other group) as good guys? The 'Bene Gesserit witches' were based on Catholic nuns. In Latin, bene gesserit, is translated as 'do gooder'. Thse witches were manipulative and manaical just like the Fremen, the Guild, the Landsraad and the Emperor.

All of the classes of power players in 'Dune' were meant as examples of how power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. NO exceptions.
There were no 'good guys' in Dune power hierarchy. There were some people trying to be effective, but all Dune groups were Machiavellian sociopaths to whatever degree they could achieve. Most importantly in 'Dune' Herbert classified all power groups, especially the religious themed fanatics as the epitome of insanity.
If you want to deal with Catholics, I spent 5 years in Dominican seminary school & a year with the Jesuits.
Peace and Honor
3 / 5 (2) May 02, 2011
You realize the Arabs were the good guys in Dune, right?

Arguing here about this and my views are just insane. Please read your PM mail.

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