Posted on May 16, 2011

How Exposure to the Confederate Flag Affects Willingness to Vote for Barack Obama

Joyce Ehrlinger et al., Political Psychology, November 12, 2010


Leading up to the 2008 U.S. election, pundits wondered whether Whites, particularly in Southern states, were ready to vote for a Black president. The present paper explores how a common Southern symbol–the Confederate flag–impacted willingness to vote for Barack Obama. We predicted that exposure to the Confederate flag would activate negativity toward Blacks and result in lowered willingness to vote for Obama. As predicted, participants primed with the Confederate flag reported less willingness to vote for Obama than those primed with a neutral symbol. The flag did not affect willingness to vote for White candidates. In a second study, participants primed with the Confederate flag evaluated a hypothetical Black target more negatively than controls. These results suggest that exposure to the Confederate flag results in more negative judgments of Black targets. As such, the prevalence of this flag in the South may have contributed to a reticence for some to vote for Obama because of his race.


In Study 1, we examined the effect of Confederate flag exposure on willingness to vote for Barack Obama in the 2008 election. After manipulating exposure to the Confederate flag, we asked White and Black participants to report their likelihood of voting for four candidates who, at the time the study began, had active campaigns for President of the United States–Barack Obama, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Mike Huckabee. By asking participants to make judgments about all four candidates, we were able to explore whether individuals exposed to the Confederate flag made more negative judgments of a Black target, relative to White targets, independent of the candidates’ party affiliation. We predicted that White participants exposed to the Confederate flag would report a lower likelihood of voting for the Black candidate (Obama) compared to the three White candidates. We also explored whether the effect of exposure to the Confederate flag on willingness to vote for Obama interacted with Southern identity. Southerners might hold stronger associations with the Confederate flag than non-Southerners by virtue of increased exposure. If so, we would expect that the effect of exposure to the Confederate flag on judgments of Blacks would be particularly strong for those who identify as Southerners.


16 responses to “How Exposure to the Confederate Flag Affects Willingness to Vote for Barack Obama”

  1. Alexandra says:

    This lifelong Yankee didn’t vote for Obama because he’s a fraud. And I’m not offended by seeing the CSA flag.

  2. Anonymous says:

    So basically, all republican candidates should start wearing confederate flag pins, and liberally use the confederate flag in their campaigns and advertising, in order to win elections.

    Works for me.

  3. Ken says:

    On the way to the polls I have to pass at least three houses flying the Confederate battle flag. In 2008 by the time I got there I had this tingly feeling run down my leg. Little did I know the power of the flag as it kept me and all the White people from central Alabama from voting for Obama.

  4. Anonymous says:

    And we mustn’t forget that a replica of a Confederate flag flying outside a Louisiana courthouse intimidated jurors to the point that they convicted a black defendant of murder. Of course, the evidence of his guilt was pretty solid and even his co-defendant testified against him but we all know that it was the flag that did him in.

  5. gemalo says:

    Maybe the unwillingness to vote for Obama precludes the display of the Confederate flag. I would think that most that wouldn’t vote for him went out of their way to display the flag as a symbol of their decision.

  6. Wayne Engle says:

    All this hoo-ha about the Confederate flag is just another move by blacks and their White liberal supporters to suppress anything they see as even remotely related to what might be called “White Pride.”

    However, it looks like the anti-flag loonies are losing ground: Nine states now allow Confederate flag vanity plates, and they seem likely to be approved in two or three more. Right on, Sons of Confederate Veterans! Way to fight for your heritage!

  7. Robert Treadwell says:

    Psychology is known by many physicians (i.e surgeons and internists) as “BUNK-OLOGY” for many valid reasons.

    “Research” papers such as this one won’t be helping most psychologists in their very long battle towards respectable legitimacy in the medical community.

    I do hear the EU’s global warming research lab is hiring, though.

  8. Anonymous says:

    What do you expect from a rag called Political Psychology? I work part-time in a sociology dept. and one day on break I picked up a magazine in the break room that had an article about how blacks experience “weathering” because of racism. You know, like an old barn or something. And did you know that racism can cause breast cancer? Heard it straight from the mouth of some idiot with a Ph.D.

    These people are nuts and no amount of education and degrees can change that. Actually, I think it makes them worse – too much thinking, you know.

    Anyway, right now I’ve embarkded on a study of Reconstruction. What an eye-opener. God bless the Confederate Flag and deo vindice!

  9. Anonymous says:

    I’ve always thought that the Confederate Battle Flag was a great looking banner. That the blacks via the NAACP were able to vilify it to the point they have as a so-called “symbol of hate” is a prime example of the suppression of history, in the Orwellian style.

  10. Question Diversity says:

    The conclusion from this story and the two previous on AR about the Caddo Parish, Louisiana Court House?

    Confederate Battle Flags are sentient and potent beings. I jokingly said about the Caddo Court House issue that the building’s quartermaster must have a secret supply line to a secret factory that makes special CBFs that have the power to oppress and indoctrinate. I was wrong — According to this, all CBFs have that power.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The methodology of this “study” was either not described well, severely lacking or both. There is absolutely no validity to this study; There is no control group and the “manipulating of exposure” was not described at all. The “prediction” was an obvious indicator of bias. I would have gotten an “F” for designing a study this way in undergrad. They may have considered removing me from grad school for it. Very scientific. NOT!

  12. EW says:

    Well, if the authors didn’t tamper with their results, seeing subliminaly flashed Confederate flag does indeed have a small effect. The willingness to vote for Hillary instead of Obama (Study 1) was on the verge of significance.

    The authors admit that seeing subliminally the flag DID NOT make people more Republican!

    Of course, they pulled out an explanation, that voting for Hillary WOULD have been damaging more for Obama, but as a European, I don’t quite get it.

    In the Study 2 (judging a hypothetical young black male behavior), the flag made people more negative about this, and that irrespectively on the self-proclaimed views on races. Hmmm… I would like to know what the cause may be?

    Another thing: the authors wrote that the control group was exposed to an arrangements of lines and colors instead of the Confederate flag. Being a researcher myself, I would use as controls a U.S.A. flag and a mostly unknown flag of some very small foreign nation (perhaps some tiny Pacific island or so).

  13. Sardonicus says:

    “As predicted, participants primed with the Confederate flag reported less willingness to vote for Obama than those primed with a neutral symbol.”

    Oh, that outrageous satanic banner is as hateful to blacks as the swastika flag is to Jews? Looking at it makes me want to vote against Obama? I always thought of the Confederate flag as a freedom flag, representing the right to live your life as you see fit, free from unwanted government intervention. As has often been said before, slavery and racism existed longer under “Old Glory” than the so called “Rebel” flag.

  14. Rebby Gal, hot and hotter! says:

    It’s true. The Confederate flag reminds us to never vote for Obama or any other afrovoodoo or non white.

    The Confederate heroes who fought under that flag died to protect you and me from black rule. We honor their sacrifice by never voting for blacks.

    Also, blacks and the unmentionable tribe hate the flag because it is a symbol of White unity and defiance of outsiders. For that reason, we embrace our Confederate flag with the same religious fervor that causes evangelicals to raise their hands in the air and speak in tongues.

  15. mark says:

    Very strange. I drove by two KFCs and one Popeye’s Chicken location on my way to the polls and still didn’t vote for obama.

  16. diversity = adversity says:

    There was no slavery in the Confederacy. Southern states’ slaves were freed when the first states seceded and the Confederacy was established. The Northern states kept their slaves until the war ended. Confederate General Robert E Lee freed his slaves voluntarily before it was obligatory, and United States general Ulysses S. Grant only freed his slaves when it was mandatory.

    Anyway we should never have brought African slaves here in the first place, if we had left them all in Africa they would not be our problem now.