Many Eager to Document ‘Obama Effect’

Beth Reinhard, Miami Herald, January 24, 2009

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University researchers have already documented an “Obama effect” in which the gap between scores earned by blacks and whites on a 20-question test given before Obama’s nomination virtually disappeared when the exam was taken after his acceptance speech and again after election.

Though The New York Times noted that the study has yet to undergo peer review, the researchers concluded that Obama’s success helped blacks overcome anxieties about racial stereotypes.

“Obama serves as a national role model,” said state Sen. Frederica Wilson, of Miami, who runs a minority dropout prevention program. “Children who have a vision of themselves in the future value themselves.”

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That’s why Wilson recently took 100 black boys to Tallahassee to watch Florida’s electors cast votes for Obama.

“I could see a change in how these boys hold their heads up,” Wilson said. “This is a turning point in the lives and perceptions of black men and boys.”

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Obama’s presidency changes everything. And nothing. Walking down to the National Mall before the inauguration, I passed a black man in ratty clothes, pressed up against a doorway. He was urinating on the sidewalk.

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Now researchers have documented what they call an Obama effect, showing that a performance gap between African-Americans and whites on a 20-question test administered before Mr. Obama’s nomination all but disappeared when the exam was administered after his acceptance speech and again after the presidential election.

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Dr. Friedman [Ray Friedman, a management professor at Vanderbilt University] and his fellow researchers, David M. Marx, a professor of social psychology at San Diego State University, and Sei Jin Ko, a visiting professor in management and organizations at Northwestern, have submitted their study for review to The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Dr. Friedman said.

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