A new US study has found that in 2008 the then Presidential hopeful Barack Obama’s skin was darkened in ads during the campaign by his rivals the Republicans. Still, to no avail, with the Democrat going onto win the White House after beating his Republican rival John McCain.
The results of the study were recently published in The Washington Post and suggested that by darkening Obama’s skin it may have played on the racial prejudices of some voters.
“The finding reinforces charges that some Republican politicians seek to win votes by implying support for racist views and ethnic hierarchies, without voicing those prejudices explicitly. The purported tactic is often called “dog-whistle politics” – just as only canines can hear a dog whistle, only prejudiced voters are aware of the racist connotations of a politician’s statement, according to the theory,” The Washington Post wrote.
However, it agreed that “dog-whistle politics” was common fare of many US politicians. Donald Trump’s recent attack on Latinos and Muslims a case in point.
A study of the 2008 US Presidential election by online publication Public Opinion Quarterly analysed 126 advertising campaigns during the Presidential race. It found that when his opponents wanted to show Obama in a particularly negative light “the producers almost always used images that made Mr Obama’s skin appear very dark”.
Some 86 per cent of the ads showed his skin tone to be in the darkest quartile.
Interestingly, Obama’s skin tone started out lighter but gradually darkened as the campaign went on while John McCain’s skin tone actually became whiter. Although the report didn’t suggest that this was done intentionally be the Republican party.
The report cited jurors who give harsher sentences to people with more traditional African features than they do those with lighter coloured skin tones.
To qualify the study, researchers showed images of Obama with different skin tones to a subject group. Forty five per cent of respondents were more likely to have a negative view of the President with darker skin versus a third of those when shown the image of him with a lighter tone.