Any illusion that America now exists in a post-racial era since the election of the first African American president was thrown completely out the window last week when a new study from the University of Chicago revealed that race and ethnicity continue to play a significant role in politics and civic engagement. This comes just as the nation heads to the polls for the midterm election and begins to prepare and ramp up activity for the upcoming 2012 presidential race.
The Mobilization, Change and Political and Civic Engagement Project (MCPCE) headed by Dr. Cathy J. Cohen explored the impact of the 2008 presidential election and the reshaping of attitudes of individuals towards government and policies. In particular the project focused upon a variety of hot political issues including immigration, racial profiling and same-sex marriage as they are perceived among and between racial groups.
During a press conference to discuss these findings, Dr. Cohen explained that the report is meant to study “The psychology of voters” in terms of understanding “why they might go to the polls, how they’re thinking about the Obama administration and why they might stay home from the polls.” She also added that “The peak we saw after the  election is no longer there. What happened in 2008 among young voters and young voters of color in general had a lot to do with Pres. Obama” and she urged that a “major investment” in infrastructure be made to community groups in order to continue to reach these segments.
Further, the report is also being reviewed by both national and local groups in order to gain insight into what their constituency is thinking, how to engage them civically and politically and how to keep their interest so that there is no enthusiasm gap in between major election cycles. National NAACP Director, Alvin Starks says he’s using information from the report “To put into our various troops at the state levels as well as the local, to help us think through civic engagement plans we should really ensue.” Meanwhile, Rob Baker, Executive Director of the League of Young Voters explains that “Having this information allows us to communicate to our peers and our allies how important our demographic is to the political process. We are the most connected generation ever. From Facebook to Twitter, we can communicate at a much faster pace than ever before. We are the most critical generation ever. We’re not just critical, we’re informed.”
The entire study can be accessed online at http://2008andbeyond.com Overall the findings were not too surprising. The political and social orientation of whites versus non-whites in the United States continues to stand at a wide gap on almost every issue, but there also shines glimmers of hope that the report alludes to. Young people across the board are less racial in their political thinking and voting which gives further insight into 2012 and beyond.
Below are some of the highlights from the study:
Racial Equality & Racial Profiling:
-Blacks are most likelyto say that racism continues to be a major problem while whites are the least likelyto hold such an opinion. Asians and Latinos fall in the middle: Black 69%, Latino 51%, Asian 32%, White 29%,
-Across all groups, young people ages 18-35 are less likely to think racism remains a major problem than older individuals.
-Whites were most likely to either agree or strongly agree that racial profiling helps to keep our country safe from terrorists (47%), although sizeable numbers of racial minorities also agreed: 30% of Blacks, 34% of Asians and 38% of Latinos.
Political Mobilization Varies Among Racial Groups.
-White are more likely than any other group to be directly contacted by political parties, political campaigns, candidates, veteran’s organizations, and organizations.
-Non-whites are typically mobilized politically through neighborhood leaders, local groups and places of worship.
-White are most likely to be in agreement with the idea that immigrants, especially immigrants from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, take jobs, housing, and healthcare away from people who were born in the United States: White 51%, Black 38%, Asian 23%, Latino 16%.
Political Media Consumption
-Hispanics are slightly more likely than Blacks and much more likely than Asian respondents to consume media specific to their racial/ethnic group.
-Young people absorb political information through new media technology at higher rates.
Same Sex Marriage
-Asians are more pro-same sex marriage with Hispanics and Whites tied in the middle and Blacks least accepting of legalizing same-sex marriage.