A new study out of Yale (PDF) about how politicians engage with potential voters has emerged just as Republicans and Democrats start seeking to register voters for the 2012 presidential election. Called "Do Politicians Racially Discriminate?" the research paper by professor Daniel Butler and his student David Broockman sought to find out if state legislators responded differently to constituents based on their race. Sadly, the answer to that question was a resounding yes.
Posing as two different constituents, one with the stereotypically black name DeShawn Jackson, and one with the stereotypically white name Jason Mueller, Butler and Broockman sent emails to thousands of state legislators asking for help registering to vote. The response wasn't partisan, it was racist, and all parties and races were to blame.
We find that the putatively black alias continues to be differentially treated even when the emails signal partisanship, indicating that strategic considerations cannot completely explain the observed differential treatment. Further analysis reveals that white legislators of both parties exhibit similar levels of discrimination against the black alias. Minority legislators do the opposite, responding more frequently to the black alias.