Racial Resentment Causes People To Minimize Barack Obama’s Accomplishments, Study Shows

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As the 44th President of the United States for two terms, Barack Obama had a number of career-defining moments. Some notable and controversial actions included the introduction of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and his support of gay marriage.

Because of his decision to stop federal protection of the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex marriages were made recognizable in many states. This, along with his stances on other social issues, made him the source of heated controversy. His presidency continues to be a hot topic in many political discussions, but many people have wondered if his race contributes to the widespread detraction from his work.

Many note that his life before the Oval Office is frequently overlooked or downplayed. As a Harvard graduate and the first black president of the Harvard Law Review journal, he was successful even before his election as president. He served as a professor at the University of Chicago Law School for over a decade, teaching constitutional law. This is all before he ran for the U.S. Senate, from where his journey to presidency is more well-known.

Even now, people continue to minimize his accomplishments. According to PsyPost, there may be a more serious reason for this. A recent study has shown that his race plays directly into the issue.

barack obama in 2004
A younger Barack Obama in 2004, during his run for the US Senate. Before he became the face of a nation, he was an attorney and politician. Featured image credit: Scott Olsen Getty Images

According to Darren W. Davis, the study author and a professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, this is not uncommon. Notions about certain races make up many of our preconceived biases. “People tend to minimize or ignore information that is inconsistent with their existing racial beliefs,” he said.

“Many people were not fair in their evaluations of President Obama. If they were highly racial resentful, they were not willing to evaluate President Obama objectively. Instead, individuals would align their beliefs about President Obama to be consistent with their resentment toward African Americans.”

By collecting responses from around 1,100 white Americans, the study was able to present proof that this was true. The introduction to the study, which is currently posted on ScienceDirect, reads the following.

“Using experimental data collected in the 2012 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), we find that Whites attributed more responsibility to Obama under negative economic conditions (i.e., blame) than positive economic conditions (i.e., credit). (…) Our findings highlight the likely inescapability of racial biases regardless of positive information or shared political identity.”