Stanford University Study Finds That Whites Who Voted for Obama Use Their Political Stance to Defend Acts or Statements That Hint of Racism

A study by researchers at Stanford University found that many whites who supported the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama now use their vote to build “moral credentials” when they are accused of making statements or taking actions that could be perceived as racist or bigoted.

In the past, when a person was challenged for making a bigoted statement, the typical defensive response was, “Some of my best friends are black.” Now statements or actions with a hint of racism or prejudice are being justified by people who say, “I’m not a bigot, I voted for Barack Obama.”

In the Stanford study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, whites who supported Obama for president were asked if they would hire a white or black officer to a police department that has had a long history of racial tensions between officers. Prior to being presented with the hiring decision, one group of test subjects was led in a discussion about their choice in the recent presidential election. In the other group, there was no prior discussion on politics.

The results showed that the group that was able to build their moral credentials by demonstrating their political support for Obama were more likely to prefer hiring the white police officer. Participants in the second group who had not been able to express their support for Obama tended to play it safe and say that both the white and black candidate were equally suited for the position.

A second test asked participants to allocate money to two community groups. Subjects were told that in the past the predominantly black community group had received more funds than the predominantly white group. In this instance, the group that was permitted to express support for Obama before making the decision was more apt to give greater amounts of money to the white-controlled community group. Those who were not able to present their moral credentials were apt to allocate the money equally between the two groups.