Election of President Obama changed perceptions of racism

May 27, 2011

The election of President Obama in 2008 made some believe racism in the United States had declined. That's according to a study from the University of Michigan. It measured perceptions of racism amongst Americans before the 2008 election and again in 2010.

Nicholas Valentino is a professor with U of M. He says it’s difficult to know how perceptions about racism are formed. But he thinks it might have to do with obstacles different racial groups face:

And if they think those obstacles have declined, then we would predict that policies to assist those groups would also decline. And that’s really one of the main findings.

But Valentino says perceptions of racism are not always reality:

The election of Obama actually suggests to them that the playing field was more balanced than they had actually previously thought. This does not necessarily mean that the field is more balanced.

The study found that many Americans believed racism had decreased, regardless of their own race, gender, or political affiliation.

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio News