This study argues that President Obama’s strong association with an issue like health care should polarize public opinion by racial attitudes and race. Consistent with that hypothesis, racial attitudes had a significantly larger impact on health care opinions in fall 2009 than they had in cross-sectional surveys from the past two decades and in panel data collected before Obama became the face of the policy. Moreover, the experiments embedded in one of those reinterview surveys found health care policies were significantly more racialized when attributed to President Obama than they were when these same proposals were framed as President Clinton’s 1993 reform efforts. Dozens of media polls from 1993 to 1994 and from 2009 to 2010 are also pooled together to show that with African Americans overwhelmingly supportive of Obama’s legislative proposals, the racial divide in health care opinions was 20 percentage points greater in 2009–10 than it was over President Clinton’s plan back in 1993–94.
It is not often that you hear the phrase “American Journal of Political Science” on a major news outlet. Kudos to NPR science reporter Shankar Vedantam. More of Tesler’s research is here. See also his book with David Sears, Obama’s Race.