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Surprising Way Race Colors Attitudes To Health Care Reform

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Some opposition to the Obama administration's health care reform law is linked to racial bias, according to a study released by the Greenlining Institute on Tuesday.

But, according to the research, much of this opposition to health care reform is not attributable to racially charged views about President Barack Obama in particular, but, comes from a complex idea called racial resentment.

"The racial bias that I looked at is a construct called racial resentment, it's the idea that the reason why blacks don't get ahead in society is because they don't work hard enough," said Daniel Byrd, research director at the Greenlining Institute. "Obama isn't affecting their attitudes towards the healthcare reform law, it's more about the idea that blacks may be getting something they don't deserve."

According to the report, which analyzed data from the 2008 to 2010 American National Election Survey of opinions and voting habits:

"Whites who like Obama are more supportive of the health care reform when compared to whites who do not like Obama. In contrast, for whites high in racial resentment, Obama is not a factor in their attitudes towards the health care reform law. Instead their attitude towards blacks as a group, specifically the belief that blacks do not work hard, is related to their attitude towards the recently passed health care reform law."

The study found that during the summer of 2010, 44.3% of all Americans backed healthcare reform, 35.8% opposed it and 19.8% had no opinion. There was also a "racial component" to support for the measure, the report found, as 78.6% of African Americans, 52.6% of Latinos and 43.6% of people from other racial backgrounds backed reform, compared with 38.4% of the white people surveyed, according to the study. This could be linked to the fact that, according to the Center for American Progress, black and Latino Americans are less likely to have health insurance when compared to their white counterparts.

Opposition to the health care reform bill has sometimes been racially charged. In 2009, a swastika was painted on a sign outside the Smyrna, Ga., office of representative David Scott, D-Ga., who backed the bill, after a town hall meeting about an unrelated issue became a confrontation over health care reform.

“This kind of hate and racism is bubbling underneath the surface,” Scott told the AJC at the time. “You hear these people say I want my country back, but from whom?” Scott told the paper. “They feel somebody has taken their country. What has happened to demonstrate that? I think it speaks for itself.”

Several other representatives who backed the bill received death threats, according to the AJC:

"Democratic congressman, Brad Miller of North Carolina, has received death threats for his support of health care reform. Two other Democratic congressman, Lloyd Doggett of Texas and Frank Kratovil of Maryland, were hanged in effigy by protesters opposed to President Barack Obama's health care reform."

The Obama administration is currently defending healthcare reform against a barrage of challenges after courts in Florida and Virginia ruled against aspects of the legislation.

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