Political Behavior

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 621–641 | Cite as

The Influence of President Obama’s, Middle Name on Middle Eastern and U.S. Perceptions

Original Paper


In a series of cross-cultural experiments, we explore whether mentioning President Obama’s middle name facilitates or impedes his delicate position as a peace broker. Our results show that including Obama’s middle name affects perceptions of Obama and his proposals for the Middle East among Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs. We examine whether the use of Obama’s middle name inspires the same reactions in the United States by replicating the study among those who sympathize with Israelis and those who sympathize with Palestinians. Results show that the effect of Obama’s middle name differs in the United States. This study has important implications, not only for the President Obama’s standing in the Arab world and for the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, but also for our understanding of subtle ethnic cues and biases across cultural contexts.


News Priming Israeli–Palestinian conflict Ethnic cues Reactive devaluation Obama 



The authors would like to thank Bathen Fisher, Einav Jerochim, and Steven Seybold for their much appreciated assistance.


This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.


  1. Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Finkenauer, C., & Vohs, K. D. (2001). Bad is stronger than good. Review of General Psychology, 5(4), 323–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bertrand, M., & Mullainathan, S. (2004). Are Emily and Greg more employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A field experiment on labor market discrimination. The American Economic Review, 94(4), 991–1013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Block, R., Jr, & Onwunli, C. (2010). Managing monikers: The role of name presentation in the 2008 presidential election. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 40, 464–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brader, T., Valentino, N. A., & Suhay, E. (2008). What triggers public opposition to immigration? Anxiety, group cues, and immigration threat. American Journal of Political Science, 52(4), 959–978.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Byrne, G. C., & Pueschel, J. K. (1974). But who should I vote for county coroner? The Journal of Politics, 36(3), 778–784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cavari, A. (2012). Religious beliefs, elite polarization, and public opinion on foreign policy: The partisan gap in American public opinion toward Israel. International Journal of Public Opinion Research. doi: 10.1093/ijpor/edr053.
  7. Chong, D., & Druckman, J. (2007). Framing public opinion in competitive democracies. American Political Science Review, 101(4), 637–655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cobb, M. D., & Kuklinski, J. H. (1997). Changing minds: Political arguments and political persuasion. American Journal of Political Science, 41(1), 88–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Druckman, J. N. (2004). Political preference formation. American Political Science Review, 98, 671–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Druckman, J. N., & Lupia, A. (2000). Preference formation. Annual Review of Political Science, 3, 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Druckman, J. N., & Nelson, K. R. (2003). Framing and deliberation: How citizens’ conversations limit elite influence. American Journal of Political Science, 47(4), 729–745.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ehrlinger, J., Plant, E. A., Eibach, R. P., Goplen, J., Columb, C., Kunstman, J., et al. (2011). How exposure to the confederate flag affects willingness to vote for Barack Obama. Political Psychology, 32(1), 131–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gardner, W. L., Gabriel, S., & Lee, A. Y. (1999). “I” value freedom but “we” value relationships: Self-construal priming mirrors cultural differences in judgment. Psychological Science, 10, 321–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Goren, P., Federico, C. M., & Kittilson, M. C. (2009). Source cues, partisan identities, and political value expression. American Journal of Political Science, 53(4), 805–820.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Green, D. P., Palmquist, B., & Schickler, E. (2002). Partisan hearts and minds: Political parties and the social identities of voters. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Haaretz Service (2010, July 8). Obama: Israelis suspicious of me because my middle name. Haaretz.com.Google Scholar
  17. Hamilton, D. L., & Zanna, M. P. (1972). Differential weighting of favorable and unfavorable attributes in impressions of personality. Journal of Experimental Research in Personality, 6, 204–212.Google Scholar
  18. Hensley, W. E., & Spencer, B. A. (1985). The effect of first names on perceptions of female attractiveness. Sex Roles, 12(7/8), 723–729.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ho, A. K., Sidanius, J., Pratto, F., Levin, S., Thomsen, L., Kteily, N., et al. (2012). Social dominance orientation: Revisiting the structure and function of a variable predicting social and political attitudes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin., 38(5), 583–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hovland C. I. & Weiss, W. (1951/52). The influence of source credibility on communication effectiveness. Public Opinion Quarterly, 15(4), 635–650.Google Scholar
  21. Hurwitz, J., & Peffley, M. (2005). Playing the race card in the post-Willie Horton era: The impact of racialized code words on support for punitive crime policy. Public Opinion Quarterly, 69(1), 99–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Iyengar, S., & Kinder, D. R. (1987). News that matters: Television and American opinion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  23. Johnson, R. A., & Wichern, D. W. (2007). Applied multivariate statistical analysis (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  24. Kam, C. D. (2007). Implicit attitudes, explicit choices: When subliminal priming predicts candidate preference. Political Behavior, 29, 343–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kernell, S. (1977). Presidential popularity and negative voting: An alternative explanation of the midterm congressional decline of the President’s party. American Political Science Review, 71(1), 44–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Krosnick, J. A., & Kinder, D. R. (1990). Altering the foundation of support for the president through priming. American Political Science Review, 84, 497–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kühberger, A. (1998). The influence of framing on risky decisions: A meta-analysis. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 75, 23–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kuklinski, J. H., & Hurley, N. L. (1994). On hearing and interpreting political messages: A cautionary tale of citizen cue-taking. Journal of Politics, 56, 729–751.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ladd, J. M. (2010). The neglected power of elite opinion leadership to produce antipathy toward the news media: Evidence from a survey experiment. Political Behavior, 32(1), 29–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lau, R. R. (1982). Negativity in political perception. Political Behavior, 4(4), 353–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lau, R. R. (1985). Two explanations for negativity effects in political behavior. American Journal of Political Science, 29(1), 119–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lee, A. Y., Aaker, J. L., & Gardner, W. L. (2000). The pleasures and pains of distinct self-construals: The role of interdependence in regulatory focus. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 1122–1134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Maoz, I. (1999). The impact of third-party communications on the Israeli–Palestinian negotiations. International Journal of Press/Politics, 4(3), 11–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Maoz, I. (2006). The effect of news coverage concerning the opponents’ reaction to a concession on its evaluation in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. International Journal of Press/Politics, 11(4), 70–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Maoz, I., Ward, A., Katz, M., & Ross, L. (2002). Reactive devaluation of an “Israeli” vs. “Palestinian” peace proposal. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 46(4), 515–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Matsumoto, D., & Yoo, S. H. (2006). Toward a new generation of cross-cultural research. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1, 234–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McClain, D. P., Johnson Carew, J. D., Walton, E., & Watts, C. S. (2009). Group membership, group identity, and group consciousness: Measures of racial identity in American politics? Annual Review of Political Science, 12, 471–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McGraw, K. M., & Ling, C. (2003). Media priming and presidential and group evaluations. Political Communication, 20, 23–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mendelberg, Tali. (2001). The race card: Campaign strategy, implicit messages, and the norm of equality. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Miller, J. M., & Krosnick, J. A. (2000). News media impact on the ingredients of presidential evaluations: Politically knowledgeable citizens are guided by a trusted source. American Journal of Political Science, 44(2), 301–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Nyhan, B., Reifler, J., Edelman, C., Passo, W., et al. (2009). The effects of semantics and social desirability in correcting the Obama myth. Working Paper.Google Scholar
  42. Page, B. I., & Shapiro, R. Y. (1983). Effects of public opinion on policy. American Political Science Review, 77, 175–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Preacher, K. J., Rucker, D. D., & Hayes, A. F. (2007). Addressing moderated mediation hypotheses: Theory, methods, and prescriptions. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 42, 185–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Price, V., & Tewksbury, D. (1997). News values and public opinion: A theoretical account of media priming and framing. In G. A. Barnett & F. J. Boster (Eds.), Progress in the communication sciences (Vol. 13, pp. 173–212). New York: Ablex.Google Scholar
  45. Roskos-Ewoldsen, D. R., Roskos-Ewoldsen, B., & Dillman Carpentier, F. (2009). Media priming: An updated synthesis. In J. Bryant & M. B. Oliver (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theory and research (3rd ed., pp. 74–93). New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  46. Ross, L., & Ward, A. (1995). Psychological barriers to dispute resolution. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 27, 255–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Scheufele, D. A., & Tewksbury, D. (2007). Framing, agenda setting, and priming: The evolution of three media effects models. Journal of Communication, 57(1), 9–20.Google Scholar
  48. Sela, A. (2007). Civil society, the military, and national security: The case of Israel’s security zone in south Lebanon. Israel Studies, 12(1), 53–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sheafer, T., & Weimann, G. (2005). Agenda building, agenda setting, priming, individual voting intentions, and the aggregate results: An analysis of four Israeli elections. Journal of Communication, 55, 347–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Soroka, S. N. (2006). Good news and bad news: Asymmetric responses to economic information. Journal of Politics, 68(2), 372–385.Google Scholar
  51. Taylor, S. E., & Fiske, S. T. (1978). Salience, attention, and attribution: Top of the head pherlomena. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 11). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  52. Tsfati, Y. (2007). Hostile media perceptions, presumed media influence, and minority alienation: The case of Arabs in Israel. Journal of Communication, 57, 632–651.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Valentino, N. A., Hutchings, V. L., & White, I. K. (2002). Cues that matter: How political ads prime racial attitudes during campaigns. American Political Science Review, 96(1), 75–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. White, I. K. (2007). When race matters and when it doesn’t: Racial group differences in response to racial cues. American Political Science Review, 101(2), 339–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Political SciencesUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael
  2. 2.Department of Communication StudiesUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

Personalised recommendations