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Hope, Tropes, and Dopes: Hispanic and White Racial Animus in the 2008 Election


Gary M. Segura is a professor of American politics and chair of Chicano/a studies in the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University. He is one of three principal investigators of the 2012 American National Election Studies.

Ali A. Valenzuela is a doctoral candidate in political science at Stanford University. His research interests include minority group attitudes and political behavior, group identity and political socialization, voter mobilization, and religious beliefs in American politics.


One of the central questions surrounding the 2008 presidential election is the role of race in shaping electoral choice among non-Hispanic whites, and whether race played an equivalent role among Hispanics, whose willingness to vote for an African American candidate was raised as an uncertainty during the primary campaign. The authors argue that, beyond the usual association of racial sentiment with party preference, the effect of Obama's race on the 2008 election is significant, but substantially smaller among Latinos than among non-Hispanic whites. Although Latino voters often express racial sentiments that are indistinguishable from whites, there was a significant disconnect between those racial sentiments and Latinos' vote choice and evaluations of candidate Obama. The authors explore the explanatory power of explicit, indirect, and implicit measures of racial sentiment and find that an indirect measurement—the Racial Resentment Index—retains the greatest predictive validity, notwithstanding its conceptual challenges.