Political empowerment fading for black Americans in the age of Obama​

Black conservatives, ‘born again’ Christians express biggest declines, survey shows

“The election of a black American to the U.S. presidency did seem to empower African Americans, causing an increase in levels of perceived freedom,” writes James L. Gibson, PhD, the Sidney W. Souers Professor of Government and professor of African and African-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis.

James Gibson
  • Perceptions of freedom among Christian fundamentalists (irrespective of race) are among the most constrained in contemporary American politics.
  • Black perceptions of political freedom have decreased significantly among fundamentalist blacks, especially those who consider themselves to be “born again.”
  • Conservative blacks and liberal blacks perceived equivalent levels of freedom prior to the election, but after, conservative blacks felt markedly less free than liberal blacks.
  • Blacks are equally divided, with half who perceive constraints on their freedom and half who do not.
  • By far, the most powerful predictor of levels of perceived freedom is education: Poorly educated black Americans do not believe that they have the freedom to participate fully in politics.

“Given the objective reality of participation wars in contemporary American politics, it is hardly surprising that some would perceive serious constraints on the freedom available to them, and that even the election of a co-ethnic to America’s highest office would have little long-term ability to inoculate against those constraints,” Gibson concludes.

Editor’s Note: A complete list of election experts is available at news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/24319.aspx.

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