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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Americans Fill Out President Obama's Census Form: What is His Race?

  • Author(s): Citrin, J
  • Levy, M
  • Houweling, RPV
  • et al.

© 2014 Southwestern Social Science Association. Objective: We use nationally representative survey experiments to assess public opinion about how President Obama should have identified himself racially on the 2010 Census. Methods: Respondents were randomly assigned to three conditions-a control, a treatment that described the president's biracial ancestry, and a treatment that combined the biracial ancestry information with a statement that Obama had in fact classified himself as black only. All respondents were then asked how they felt Obama should have filled out his Census form. Results: A clear majority of Americans in all experimental conditions said that Obama should have identified himself as both black and white. Conclusion: There appears to be suggesting robust acceptance of official multiracial identification despite the cultural and legal legacy of the "one drop of blood" rule in official U.S. race categorization. A subsequent survey experiment found that a convenience sample of Americans support multiracial identification for mixed-race individuals generally and not only for the president.

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