The New York Times has this front page story today about a nationwide shift in support of more black elected officials, even in areas that are predominantly white. The story references a study conducted by UCSD political scientist Zoltan L. Hajnal, author of the book “Changing White Attitudes Toward Black Political Leadership.”
Here’s what the story says about Hajnal’s study:
Political scientists and local officials also point to an increase in the number of black mayors who represent predominantly white cities in places like Asheville, N.C., population 74,000, and Columbus, Ohio, population 748,000. According to a study conducted by Zoltan L. Hajnal, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, about 40 percent of Americans have lived in or near cities that have elected black mayors or in states with black governors.
Most black elected officials, however, still represent predominantly black communities. And Dr. Hajnal and other analysts say racial animosity toward black candidates still exists and may affect the results of local and national elections, including the race for president. But he said such feelings were declining.
“There’s a fair amount of experience out there among white voters now, and that has lessened the fears about black candidates,” said Dr. Hajnal, whose book about white experiences with black mayors, “Changing White Attitudes Toward Black Political Leadership,” was published last year by Cambridge University Press.
Coincidentally, Hajnal attended a breakfast forum hosted by UCSD in downtown this morning that I attended.
I asked the assembled academics at the forum about the possible local effects of the so-called “Obama surge.” That’s the idea that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama will bring a whole host of new voters to the polls, including a large contingent of young voters, who are traditionally reticent when it comes to actually voting.
I wanted to know whether the experts though the surge was a real phenomenon and if they thought it would have an effect on the local political races. City Attorney Mike Aguirre has been trying to associate himself as much as possible with the Obama campaign, mentioning the presidential candidate frequently in interviews and press conferences.
Political science professor Thad Kousser said he was skeptical about whether the surge will have any impact in San Diego. Obama activists are focusing their efforts elsewhere than San Diego, Kousser said.
“There won’t be a big Obama campaign in San Diego,” Kousser said. “Without good organization, I don’t think we’ll see the Obama surge in San Diego, or its coattails.”