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After ObamaAfrican American Politics in a Post-Obama Era$
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Todd Shaw, Robert A. Brown, and Joseph P. McCormick

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781479807277

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479807277.001.0001

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The “Obama Effect” Revisited

The “Obama Effect” Revisited

A Macrolevel and Longitudinal Exploration of the Influence of Barack Obama’s Media Presence on Racialized Political Party Polarization

(p.104) 3 The “Obama Effect” Revisited
After Obama

Ray Block

Angela K. Lewis-Maddox

NYU Press

In this chapter, we examine the influence of Obama’s presence on racial divisions in partisanship. We interpret these divisions as evidence of racial polarization. Since Obama is a Democrat and because African Americans vote overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates in presidential elections, we define polarization as a gap in the extent to which African and Anglo Americans identify with the Democratic Party. Our focus on polarization stems from the fact that partisanship has always been a racialized concept in American politics. We ask the following questions: Was there a race gap in party identification during the Obama presidency? If so, did the former president’s media activities influence the width of this race gap? How did Obama’s media presence affect the party gap? Did the former president push Whites away from the Democratic Party (while pulling African Americans into it)? Or did Obama make racial differences in partisanship disappear? We conclude this chapter by discussing the substantive implications of our evidence and the limitations of our research design. When discussing potential avenues for research, we focus on the fact that Obama’s presidency gave race scholars the opportunity to study descriptive representation in the nation’s highest political office.

Keywords:   The Obama effect, Obama presidency, partisanship, racial polarization, media presence

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