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Professors consider race and gender in Nov. Election

Published: October 17, 2008
Section: News


Prof. Mingus Mapps (POL) and Prof. Jill Greenlee (POL) discussed the effects of gender and race on the general election and used market and polling data to predict who will be the next president on Monday Oct. 6.

Mapps, who specializes in race and American politics, presented data from prediction markets, which state that Senator Barack Obama has approximately a 70% chance of winning the general election.

Prediction markets are speculative markets in which the price of a stock helps calculate the likelihood of an event. In the “winner take all” election market, traders are purchasing Obama stock at 70 cents and McCain at 30 cents. In the “vote share” market, traders think that Obama will receive 53% of the votes on the day of election.

During the primaries, prediction markets considered who would win the Democratic nomination. Sen. Hillary Clinton’s stock, at one point reached the price of 80 cents, but then dipped to 2 cents, while Obama’s stock shot upwards after he won the Iowa caucus.

Mapps compared the prediction markets’ data to poll averages from Realclearpolitics.com. According to the RCP national poll average, Obama is ahead of McCain by less than 6 points (49.1 to 43.5 respectively), in contrast to his 30 point lead in prediction markets. Throughout the primaries, the RCP national average for Clinton remained above 30% and Obama’s average increased in early 2008. Mapps explained that the averages suggest that Clinton’s campaign stayed strong, while in prediction markets her campaign “tanked.”

Mapps also discussed whether Obama’s nomination is a sign that electoral politics has reached a “post-racial moment.” He hypothesized that if the U.S. has reached a “post-racial moment” than one should expect a lot of crossover voting.

Using exit poll data from the democratic primaries, Mapps surmised that this is not the case. Obama won the majority of black male votes, while Clinton won the majority of white female voters. In regards to the general election, McCain is doing better with white voters than Obama, who still continues to perform well with black voters. However, Obama has done better with Hispanic voters than he did during the primaries.

After Mapps’s presentation, Greenlee discussed racial and gender bias in the campaign. She stated that “neither campaign made race a strong, divisive issue” in comparison to past campaigns. She explained that there has been more “subtle racism.” Based on poll data suggesting that people are more comfortable voting for a person within their racial group, Greenlee expressed less assurance that the majority of Americans vould vote for Obama.

Commenting on Sarah Palin’s selection as McCain’s running mate, Greenlee said that he was attempting to take advantage of the high female voter turnout rate and to appeal to disaffected Clinton supporters. However, this tactic has not been successful, she explained.

Greenlee also discussed the gender bias surrounding Palin’s campaign. Palin’s appearance is often commented on and along with her ability to both mother and govern. Greenlee concluded that while Clinton was running for the Democratic nomination there were attempts to “muzzle her” while the gender reaction to Palin has been to not “take shots” at her and ask the tough questions. She stated, however, that the media has learned from its treatment of Clinton and there has been improvement.