Race and Politics

July 18, 2008 • Volume 18, Issue 25
Will skin color influence the presidential election?
By Peter Katel


Sen. Barack Obama greets supporters at a rally in Detroit on June 16, 2008. He attracted racially mixed crowds throughout the primary election season.  (AFP/Getty Images/Bill Pugliano)
Sen. Barack Obama greets supporters at a rally in Detroit on June 16, 2008. He attracted racially mixed crowds throughout the primary election season. (AFP/Getty Images/Bill Pugliano)

The once unthinkable could happen this November: A black man may win the presidency. When freshman Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was born in 1961, African-Americans couldn't vote in parts of the United States. Now, as Obama prepares to accept the Democratic nomination in August, he is running slightly ahead of his presumptive Republican opponent, Arizona Sen. John McCain, a 71-year-old Vietnam War hero. First dogged by questions of whether he was "black enough," Obama now faces doubts about whether racial prejudice will prove a major obstacle to his historic campaign, especially among white working-class voters. Nonetheless, Obama is likely to benefit from changes in the country's demographic makeup, which is growing less white as immigration diversifies. At the same time, younger voters are showing notably less racial prejudice than older generations. Meanwhile, some top Republicans acknowledge the GOP needs to appeal to a broader range of voters if McCain is to win.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Presidential Candidates and Campaigns
Jan. 15, 2021  The Biden Presidency Updated
Jan. 31, 2020  Presidential Primaries
Nov. 16, 2018  The Presidency
Jan. 06, 2017  Trump Presidency
Mar. 06, 2015  Presidential Power
Feb. 03, 2012  Presidential Election
Jan. 30, 2009  The Obama Presidency
Aug. 08, 2008  Political Conventions
Jul. 18, 2008  Race and Politics
Apr. 20, 2007  Electing the President
Dec. 30, 1988  Promises vs. Problems
Jul. 10, 1987  Presidential Nomination Process
Feb. 03, 1984  Choosing Presidential Nominees
Jun. 06, 1980  Choosing Presidential Candidates
Apr. 09, 1976  Presidential Campaign Coverage
Feb. 23, 1972  Political Conventions
May 27, 1964  Foreign Policy Issues in Election Campaigns
Sep. 21, 1960  Voting in 1960
Jan. 06, 1960  Presidential Primaries, 1960
Jan. 04, 1956  Campaign Smearing
Nov. 30, 1955  Presidential Possibilities, 1956
May 09, 1952  Open Conventions
Jan. 16, 1952  Presidential Primaries, 1952
Oct. 12, 1949  Modernization of the Presidential Election
Jan. 14, 1948  Presidential Primaries
May 01, 1944  Foreign Policy in National Elections
Jan. 01, 1944  Choice of Candidates for the Presidency
Apr. 08, 1940  Republican Candidates for the Presidency, 1940
Apr. 01, 1940  Democratic Candidates for the Presidency, 1940
Jun. 19, 1939  Selection of Nominees for the Presidency
Aug. 19, 1938  Nomination by Primary
Mar. 11, 1936  Voting in Presidential Elections
Feb. 18, 1936  Presidential Candidates, 1936
Mar. 03, 1932  Decline of the Presidential Primary
Aug. 25, 1931  Presidential Candidates, 1932
May 05, 1928  National Nominating Conventions
Sep. 03, 1927  Presidential Candidates—1928
Jun. 14, 1927  Patronage Influence in Nominating Conventions
Sep. 11, 1926  The Future of the Direct Primary
Jul. 02, 1924  Proposed Reforms of Presidential Nominating Methods
Jun. 04, 1924  The Machinery of the Political Conventions
Mar. 15, 1924  Presidential Candidates and the Issues
Sep. 05, 1923  The Passing of the Second Term
Campaigns and Elections
Civil Rights Movement