Civil libertarians have worried that some of President Obama’s comparatively hawkish national security policies are silencing “liberal” Democrats who would have opposed such measures under President Bush or another Republican. Now there’s new evidence that Obama’s support for such policies isn’t just silencing them — it’s winning them over.
That’s the finding of new research by Brown University political scientist Michael Tesler, who studies what he calls the “racialization” of political issues in the age of Obama: mainly, the way voters’ attitudes about race can make them more or less likely to support policies once they know those policies are supported by Obama. Last year he made headlines with an American Journal of Political Science article about the way racial attitudes shaped opinions on the Affordable Care Act.
In a YouGov poll of 1,000 voters last August, Tesler found significantly more support for targeted killing of suspected terrorists among white “racial liberals” (i.e., those liberal on issues of race) and African-Americans when they were told that Obama supported such a policy than when they were not told it was the president’s policy. Only 27 percent of white racial liberals in a control group supported the targeted killing policy, but that jumped to 48 percent among such voters who were told Obama had conducted such targeted killings (which Tesler refers to as the “Obama cue”). He found a similar difference among African-Americans, but cautions that the sample size, of 60 in a control group and another 60 who were given the “Obama cue,” is small. “We can be pretty confident that blacks are more supportive when given the Obama cue, but not at all confident about how precisely large that difference is,” he told me via email.
Read more at Salon.