In 2008, when concerns about the birth place of future nominee and then campaign winner Barack Obama first surfaced, most felt like he should just show a birth certificate.   He didn't want to 'dignify' it then, to a point where it has dogged him for years and finally he showed the document, laying the issue to rest for all but the kookiest on the right.  

But the kookiest on the left don't think it has anything to do with the Constitution at all, or that Pres. Obama's philandering father had multiple wives and got thrown out of Harvard because they were concerned about his conduct and had other such questionable behavior that even Pres. Obama might not have known where he was born if he had to rely on his father's honesty, they instead attributed it to racism.   To those people, all Republicans are racist or they wouldn't be Republicans, so you have to dismiss partisan shills of both sides.

But psychologists have found a way to validate their partisan beliefs and can even map it to a (sort of) science topology; you may not do anything racist, or say anything racist, but you may still be racist and simply not know it - though you'll fill out a college student's questionnaire honestly despite all that.   And even if you are a Democrat and don't think he is doing a great job, it could be your sub-conscious racism.   Unless you're black.    University of Delaware doctoral student Eric Hehman's  research study doesn't say black people can be racist about Obama's birthplace or performance, just white.    

Not surprisingly, all of Hehman's research focuses on racism.   When your only tool is a hammer, you tend to see a lot of nails.   His hypothesis was that white  racial prejudices influenced "how American" they perceived Obama to be and, if they didn't think he was American, they wouldn't think he was doing a good job even if he was doing the awesome job he must be doing despite record-low approval ratings.

Maybe that is why racist Americans in the 1970s were so hard on foreigner Henry Kissinger, Nixon's Secretary of State, who was born in Germany during the Nazi regime.   No?  Why not, they were the Master Race and therefore people who fought them were racist, right?

It gets better; Hehman and co-authors Samuel Gaertner and John Dovidio believe whites are the only ones with racial prejudice that would impact performance bias of the president.     Black people have no bias when it comes to Obama or even Joe Biden; they think he is an idiot just as much as whites do - but not more.

How does one make this sweeping racial indictment?   You take a survey of 300 fellow college students and then sort it out using Brigham's (1993) Attitudes Toward Blacks (ATB) scale and Attitudes Toward Whites (ATW) scale (1).    They predicted - and viola, found - that his prediction of the levels of prejudice in white people (at the University of Delaware anyway) matched the number of white people who didn't like Obama's performance  or believe he was a citizen a year ago.   Their verdict: Racism.   Actual verdict: Junk science.

How did Obama get elected then?  Hard to say, since black people are only 13% of the population and Obama won in a landslide, the first Democrat since Roosevelt to do so.   Maybe he would have gotten 100% of the vote if whites weren't so prejudiced.

Citation: Eric Hehman, Samuel L. Gaertner, John F. Dovidio, 'Evaluations of presidential performance: Race, prejudice, and perceptions of Americanism', Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 47, Issue 2, March 2011, Pages 430-435 doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2010.11.011


(1) The questions were rated on a scale of agree/disagree numerically and included (a) I would rather not have other-race students live in the same apartment building I live in; (b) It would not bother me if my new roommate was of a different race (reverse-scored); (c) It is likely that a
person of a different race than myself will bring violence into neighborhoods when they move in; (d) If a person of a different race were put in charge of me, I would not mind taking advice and direction from him or her (reverse-scored); (e) Some people of other races are so touchy about race that it is difficult to get along with them; (f) Interracial marriage should be discouraged to avoid the “who-am-I?” confusion which the children feel.