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In 2008, the voters of the United States elected our first African American president, Barack Obama. It may not surprise you to learn that when President Obama was coming of age in the 1970s, one-quarter of Americans reported that they would not vote for a qualified African American presidential nominee. Three decades later, when President Obama ran for the presidency, fewer than 8% of Americans still held that position, and President Obama won the election (Smith, 2009).Smith, T. W. (2009). Trends in willingness to vote for a black and woman for president, 1972–2008. GSS Social Change Report No. 55. Chicago, IL: National Opinion Research Center. We know about these trends in voter opinion because the General Social Survey (http://www.norc.uchicago.edu/GSS+Website), a nationally representative survey of American adults, included questions about race and voting over the years described here. Without survey research, we may not know how Americans’ perspectives on race and the presidency shifted over these years.
Thanks to survey research, we know how Americans’ perspectives on race and the presidency have shifted over the past several decades.