Beyond the One-Drop Rule: Views of Obama’s Race and Voting Intention in 2008

Simon Cheng, David Weakliem

Sociological Science, March 17, 2014
DOI 10.15195/v1.a6

We use data from a national survey of likely voters conducted before the 2008 election to study the association between Obama’s perceived racial identity and voters’ choices. Voters who saw Obama as biracial were substantially more likely to vote for him, suggesting that many Americans regard a biracial identity more favorably than a black identity. The relationship was stronger among Democrats than among Republicans. The potential implications of our findings for the future of race in American politics are discussed.

Simon Cheng: University of Connecticut. E-mail:

David L. Weakliem: University of Connecticut. E-mail:

  • Citation: Cheng, Simon, and David L. Weakliem. 2014. “Beyond the One-Drop Rule: Views of Obama’s Race and Voting Intention in 2008.” Sociological Science 1: 70-80.
  • Received: September 17, 2013
  • Accepted: November 5, 2013
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Sarah A. Soule
  • DOI: 10.15195/v1.a6

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2 Reactions to Beyond the One-Drop Rule: Views of Obama’s Race and Voting Intention in 2008

  1. Gabriel Rossman March 17, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    Interesting work.

    I have a stylistic comment about table 3, where it reads “Party affiliation (1= strong Republican)” and “Political attitudes (1= very conservative).” This looks like you’ve recoded the Likert as a dummy with a cutpoint for strong conservative/GOP vs else. However from Figure 1 and the passage “The resulting effects of biracial perception range from -0.23 …” it looks like you’re keeping it as a Likert. The confusion of the table’s description is pretty consequential not only because it’s actually 1-5, not 0/1, but more importantly, because high values indicate left/Dem, so interpreting it as a dummy for rightmost response gives the wrong sign to the beta.

    Anyway, just a style tip to make the table read “(1=very conservative…5=very liberal)” and probably also to describe the independent variables a bit either in a separate section or in the “results” section when you get to model 4.

    • David Weakliem April 6, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

      Good point–the note is confusing. As you figured out, the variables are indeed in the original 1…5 form.