PS: Political Science & Politics


Obama's Missed Landslide: A Racial Cost?

Michael S. Lewis-Becka1, Charles Tiena2 and Richard Nadeaua3

a1 University of Iowa

a2 Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY

a3 University of Montreal


Barack Obama was denied a landslide victory in the 2008 presidential election. In the face of economic and political woe without precedent in the post-World War II period, the expectation of an overwhelming win was not unreasonable. He did win, but with just a 52.9 percentage point share of the total popular vote. We argue a landslide was taken from Obama because of race prejudice. In our article, we first quantify the extent of the actual Obama margin. Then we make a case for why it should have been larger. After reviewing evidence of racial bias in voter attitudes and behavior, we conclude that, in a racially blind society, Obama would likely have achieved a landslide.

Michael S. Lewis-Beck is F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of Iowa. His interests are forecasting, elections, political economy, and quantitative methodology. Professor Lewis-Beck has authored or co-authored over 160 articles and books, including American Voter Revisited, Forecasting Elections, Economics and Elections: The Major Western Democracies, The French Voter: Before and After the 2002 Elections, and Applied Regression: An Introduction. He can be reached at

Charles Tien is associate professor and chair at Hunter College, CUNY. He has been working on U.S. presidential election forecasts since 1996. His recent work has appeared in Polity, Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, International Journal of Forecasting, and Defense Analysis.

Richard Nadeau is professor of political Science at the University of Montreal. His interests are elections, public opinion, and political communication. Professor Nadeau has authored or co-authored over 110 articles, chapters, and books. His work has been published in major journals including The American Political Science Review, The American Journal of Political Science, The Journal of Politics, The British Journal of Political Science, Electoral Studies, Public Opinion Quarterly, and Political Communication. He can be reached at


We would like to thank Carl Klarner, Paul Sniderman, and various anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments, as well as discussants of the paper at the Southern Political Science Association Meetings in New Orleans (January 7–10, 2009), and the audience at the Blalock Advanced Topics in Social Research series, ICPSR, Ann Arbor (July 2009), where earlier versions were presented.