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Researcher uses Google searches to research racism in 2008 Presidential election

June 14, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
Here's an interesting study reported this week by the New York Times.

Researcher Seth Stephens-Davidowitz has concluded that Barack Obama lost between three and five percent of the popular vote in 2008 because people are racist, based on his analysis of Google searches.

Stephens-Davidowitz crunched the numbers, using a tool called Google Insights, to find out how many times people in different parts of the country searched for the "n" word online between 2004 and 2007. The highest numbers were in West Virginia, western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, upstate New York and southern Mississippi. North Dakota is somewhere in the middle of the states analyzed for racist searches, not the most racist but not the least prejudiced either.

Stephens-Davidowitz then estimated how well Obama should have done in those parts of the country, comparing the data from the 2008 election with the number of votes for John Kerry in those areas in the 2004 Presidential election. Obama "underperformed" in areas that had the highest number of searches for the "n" word.

For instance, Stephens-Davidowitz estimated Obama should have received 57 percent of the vote in Wheeling, West Virginia., based on Kerry's performance in 2004 and on Democratic gains nationally between 2004 and 2008, but instead Obama won 48 percent of the vote.

Obviously there are a lot of reasons people didn't vote for Obama, from political disagreement to personal dislike, but it would be more than a little creepy if people used race as a deciding factor.

I also find the study itself disconcerting, mainly because i don't know if it actually reflects people's real viewpoints. I've typed all sorts of terms into the Google search engine out of insatiable curiosity. I have always wanted to know what people really think and feel and to see a subject from every possible point of view. That has probably resulted in me typing in search terms and visiting websites that don't necessarily reflect my actual viewpoint. Lord knows what some snoopy researcher would conclude based on my search history!

What do you think of this study? Do you think race is having any kind of an impact on the current Presidential election?

 
 

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