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October 23, 2008

Will Race Be A Factor On Election Day?

Barack Obama may be the nation’s first African-American major party presidential nominee, but he has run a studiously race-neutral campaign.

Still, the race issue never quite goes away, whether it is raised by worried supporters, like the Pennsylvania congressman who said race would cost Obama votes, or the radio talk show hosts who dismissed Colin Powell’s endorsement as entirely race-based.

In this video, Gwen Ifill leads a discussion on how much we really know about whether the Illinois senator’s race will hurt or help on Election Day.

Quotes

“If this race tightens between now and Election Day — and historically, all elections do – [race] could potentially have an impact in one state or another. And at that point, you know, anything could happen and we could possibly end up in a long night on election night.” – Michael Fauntroy, George Mason University

“I think we have to be very mindful that race has been a part of our history since our inception as a nation. And so it would be a bit naive to believe that, just 43 years removed from the Voting Rights Act of 1965, that racial commitments, racial beliefs are not in some ways impacting voter decision.” – Eddie Glaude, Jr., Princeton University

“We have a younger voting population, the so-called millennial generation and Generation Y, that group between 18 and 29, who have a different kind of experience. These are folk who have come of age post the cultural wars, come of age post the kinds of issues that defined the ’60s and ’70s.” – Eddie Glaude, Jr., Princeton University

“In 1987, for the first time, I asked a question about, “How do you feel about interracial dating?” Fifty-five percent of the white people that we questioned said they disapproved. That number has slowly come down every year. It’s only at 14 percent.” – Andrew Kohut, Pew Research Center

“I think that voters who could potentially be driven by race are now having a competition in their mind with economic issues and other things that are pushing race to the side a bit.” – Michael Fauntroy, George Mason University

“I mean, the racialist vote is older, white, less well-educated, and we can see that vote moving a little bit to Barack Obama. It’s still with McCain, but not the way it was before the financial crisis and the meltdown.” – Andrew Kohut, Pew Research Center

Warm Up Questions

1. Do you think race is a factor in this year’s presidential election? Explain.

2. How has the country’s attitude towards race changed, or not changed, over the last 50 years?

Discussion Questions

1. Which points in the video did you agree with, which did you disagree with?

2. Do you think race plays a bigger role in people’s voting decisions than they want to admit? Why or why not?

3. Do you think younger people have different attitudes about race than older people? Why?

4. Do you think young people will vote this year? Why or why not? What are some obstacles for young people voting for the first time?

5. Make a prediction: what do you think will happen on Election Day?

Additional Resources

Transcript of this report

Indepth-coverage: Vote 2008

March 2008 conversation about race

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