News Framing of Obama, Racialized Scrutiny, and Symbolic Racism

Srividya Ramasubramanian, Amanda R. Martinez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The current study examines the Barack Obama presidency through the lens of racialized news framing and symbolic racism. Racial prejudice often manifests as subtle symbolic racism in so-called postracial America by supporting beliefs that racial minorities have gained undeserved advantage and are no longer discriminated against. Even when counter-stereotypic leaders such as President Obama from racial/ethnic minority groups are elected to positions of authority, they are subject to tokenism, heightened visibility, and racialized scrutiny in the media in ways that reinforce cultural stereotypes. The current study uses a between-participants experiment (N = 168) to examine how exposure to positive versus negative news frames of Obama have differential effects on White participants' symbolic racist beliefs. From a priming perspective, exposure to negative frames of President Obama is likely to activate underlying prejudicial feelings that lead to biased evaluations of African Americans as a whole. Using path analysis, the present study builds a causal chain of relationships that reveals that exposure to negative news frames of Obama as compared to positive ones activates readers' anti-Black affect, which in turn increases their symbolic racist beliefs. Implications of the findings for race/ethnic studies, political communication and journalism are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-54
Number of pages19
JournalHoward Journal of Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Strategy and Management


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