Is opposition to Obama motivated by race?

April 21, 2014, 8:05 AM GMT+0

Democrats tend to think that the furious opposition to President Obama is a reaction to his race, but Republicans – and Independents – disagree

Recently, New York Magazine published an essay by Jonathan Chait arguing that race is at the heart of politics in the Obama era. Chait notes that while the Obama years have been light on government action concerning race, the political atmosphere is as racially charged as ever, with incidents such as the arrest of Henry Gates or the shooting of Trayvon Martin exposing significant divides in American society. America has long witnessed racially charged events similar to these, but our society seems to have changed – where once white Democrats and white Republicans shared similar assumptions on racial issues, nowadays there is little overlap.

The latest research from YouGov shows that Americans are divided as to whether or not opposition to Obama is motivated by race.

When presented with a quote from Jonathan Chait's piece, which summarizes the widespread liberal belief that "the furious opposition marshalled against the first black president is a reaction to his race", 35% say that it is, while 44% say that it is not. This conceals a dramatic partisan divide, however, as 64% of Democrats believe that opposition to Obama is so pronounced because he is black, something only 27% of Independents and 6% of Republicans agree with.

Overall, most white Americans (52%) say that opposition to Obama is not motivated by race, while 29% say that it is. This, too, is largely a product of partisan division. 65% of white Democrats say that opposition is racially motivated, while 16% disagree. A statistically insignficant amount of white Republicans (less than 1%) agree, while an overwhelming 84% of White Republicans say that furious opposition to Obama is not a product of race.

These results appear to prove part of Jonathan Chait's assertion that political and ideological cleavages are increasingly more important than racial ones when it comes to issues like these. There is very little difference between the attitudes of white Democrats and non-white Democrats when asked about the role race and racism plays in opposition to Obama.

Full poll results can be found here.

Image: Getty

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