This study explores the relationship between individuals’ racial attitudes, exposure to information cuing them to think about President Obama, and evaluations of the government's response to Hurricane Sandy. Using a split ballot experiment embedded in a large internet panel fielded during the 2012 presidential election, we show that respondents’ evaluations of President Obama's response to Hurricane Sandy were based on their racial attitudes. We next examined the possibility for racial attitudes to “spill over” into how people evaluate governmental institutions and organizations associated with President Obama. We found evidence that respondents who were cued to think about President Obama and were impacted by Hurricane Sandy were more likely to base their evaluations of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's response to the disaster on their racial attitudes. In short, linking President Obama to Hurricane Sandy led people to ground their evaluations of an organization tasked with coordinating the response to Hurricane Sandy in their racial attitudes. Our research suggests that racial attitudes are important predictors of how individuals perceive President Obama's effectiveness as well as the efficacy of related government organizations.
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