“Life Ain’t Easy for a President Named Barack”: Party, Ideology, and Tea Party Freshman Support for the Nation’s First Black President
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In the heated rhetoric of the 2010 elections, there were some accusations that the Tea Party movement was racist, and charges of Tea Party racism persisted through 2011 as President Obama attempted to deal with an intransigent Republican majority. This paper seeks to refute the charge of Tea Party racism. In particular, I treat the charge of racism as a research hypothesis (HR): If racial animosity is a systematic motivation, then Republican freshmen elected to the House in 2010 with Tea Party endorsements should be significantly less supportive of the nation's first Black president than are other conservative Republicans. The null hypothesis (H0) is of course that Tea Party freshmen support for Obama is not different from that of other conservative Republicans. Controlling for the most obvious competing hypotheses (party, ideology, district partisanship) while comparing the results to analogous control groups, the analysis is able to reject the null hypothesis: ceteris paribus, Tea Party freshman support is significantly lower than should be expected, and this behavior is different from that of control groups. Although these results fail to provide evidence to refute charges of racism, it does not prove that President Obama's race is the cause of lower Tea Party support. In the end, it suggests that more research is needed to look for causes other than race to explain Tea Party behavior.
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