Political Behavior

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 179–202 | Cite as

Sex and Race: Are Black Candidates More Likely to be Disadvantaged by Sex Scandals?

  • Adam J. BerinskyEmail author
  • Vincent L. Hutchings
  • Tali Mendelberg
  • Lee Shaker
  • Nicholas A. Valentino
Original Paper


A growing body of work suggests that exposure to subtle racial cues prompts white voters to penalize black candidates, and that the effects of these cues may influence outcomes indirectly via perceptions of candidate ideology. We test hypotheses related to these ideas using two experiments based on national samples. In one experiment, we manipulated the race of a candidate (Barack Obama vs. John Edwards) accused of sexual impropriety. We found that while both candidates suffered from the accusation, the scandal led respondents to view Obama as more liberal than Edwards, especially among resentful and engaged whites. Second, overall evaluations of Obama declined more sharply than for Edwards. In the other experiment, we manipulated the explicitness of the scandal, and found that implicit cues were more damaging for Obama than explicit ones.


Race Voting behavior Stereotypes 



We thank Oleg Bespalov and John Lovett for valuable research assistance and Spencer Piston for helpful comments. Berinsky thanks the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences for research support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adam J. Berinsky
    • 1
    Email author
  • Vincent L. Hutchings
    • 2
  • Tali Mendelberg
    • 3
  • Lee Shaker
    • 3
  • Nicholas A. Valentino
    • 2
  1. 1.MITCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Princeton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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