People are usually reluctant to admit their real feelings in surveys, but there's no doubt that our experiences and our prejudices play a part in the way we vote. In order to figure out whetherracial bias affected Barack Obama's results in the 2008 presidential election, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a doctoral candidate in economics at Harvard University, passed over easy-to-manipulate surveys and looked at data from another source: online searches.
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When most people are searching for information online, they're likely to be alone and less likely to censor their thoughts, he explains. "You may have typed things into Google that you would hesitate to admit in polite company," he writes in a New York Times article. "I certainly have. The majority of Americans have as well: We Google the word 'porn' more often than the word 'weather'."
He chose a common racial insult that starts with "N" and looked for searches that used the singular and plural forms of the word. "The most common searches including the epithet… return websites with derogatory material about African-Americans," he writes in his study. "The top hits for the top racially charged searches are nearly all textbook examples of antilocution, a majority group's sharing stereotype-based jokes using coarse language outside a minority group's presence." read entire story