Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A new study from Washington University in St. Louis finds that under Obama, many black Americans feel less free than whites when it comes to political participation

From 2005 to 2011, only 45% of blacks said that they believed the government would allow them to make a public speech, while 67% of whites believed that they could, the study found. The study found that while the election of Obama initially boosted feelings of political empowerment among black Americans, those sentiments significantly faded in the years that followed—especially among conservative and religious blacks. These two groups make up a large segment of the black population, with 56% of blacks identifying as "born again," and 39% of blacks as "somewhat conservative," according to the study. "First we saw the 'empowerment effect,' the boost that happens when a member of your group gets elected to an important political position," says study author James L. Gibson, a professor of government and African-American studies at Washington University. Gibson's findings are based on national surveys conducted between 2005 and 2011. In 2009, the year after Obama was elected, 71% of blacks reported feeling as free to speak one's mind as they used to. "But then perceptions of political freedom deteriorated among conservative and religious blacks," says Gibson. By 2011, the percentage of blacks who felt as free to speak their mind had dropped to 56%, back to pre-Obama levels. (White Americans also reported feeling less free to speak one's mind under Obama, but the decline was far less than among blacks).

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