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Racism, Sexism, and Candidate Evaluations in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election


*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to John L. Sullivan, Department of Political Science, University of Minnesota, 1414 Social Sciences, 267 19th Ave. South, Minneapolis, MN 55455 [e-mail:].


In an attempt to understand the extent to which racism and sexism influenced affect toward Barack Obama and Sarah Palin, we analyze data from a national survey conducted in October 2008. Situating our investigation in previous examinations of modern racism and modern sexism, we test competing hypotheses about the role of these attitudes in the 2008 presidential election. Our results suggest that racism had a significant impact on candidate evaluations while sexism did not. We find that respondents who hold racist attitudes expressed negative attitudes toward Obama and positive attitudes toward Palin. When interacted with party identification, racism continued to exert a strong effect, indicating findings that are robust across partisan affiliations. Sexism, on the other hand, did not significantly influence evaluations of either Palin or Obama.