CAIRO - As the US puts final touches on the presidential election, studies have shown that racial and religious sentiments are key factors in pushing voters to cast ballot for a certain candidate.
The results are disturbing but not surprising, Josh Pasek of University of Michigan, one of the study's authors, told Toronto Star.
Racial attitudes in America have been a major issue for a long time. To imagine they'd disappear with the election of a black president is probably naÃ¯ve.
The study, released last week by the Associated Press, found that racial attitudes have not improved in the four years since the United States elected Barack Obama; its first black president.
Developing racial prejudice since 2008, the study found that 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar survey four years ago.
Anti-black sentiment seems to have increased slightly in America over the course of Mr. Obama's term and this sentiment may be shaping evaluations of (his) presidency as well as the likelihood that individuals will vote for him in 2012, says The Associated Press study, carried out by researchers at Stanford University, University of Chicago and University of Michigan.
The shocking results could cost President Obama votes as he tries for re-election.
I don't believe that either candidate wants racial tension as part of the discussion, Pasek told The Star.
But to imagine those views aren't playing out under the surface is to forget a lot of American history.
Americans are going to choose a new president on Tuesday between incumbent Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
With two days left to the election day, Obama and Romney are essentially tied in national polls.
The Democrat leader, however, holds a slight edge in the battleground states that are crucial to gaining the 270 electoral votes needed to win.
Along with racial sentiments, religion also popped up as a key factor in coming US election, apparently clear in rising number of hate groups in the US.
Anti-Muslim hate groups tripled from 10 to 30 in 2011, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremism in the US.
It is a completely artificial thing, the centre's senior fellow Mark Potok told ABC News.
That anti-Muslim wave is the work of propagandists and nothing more, he added, blaming not only religious extremists, but political opportunists for the spike in attitude.
If Obama wins the election, the rage among hate groups could grow worse, Potok said.
These groups are getting angrier and angrier. They're looking at four (more) years under a black guy who they hate.
Obama's religious beliefs have often been raised ahead of election campaigns in the US.
Since his presidential election campaign in 2008, Obama had to put up with rumors, news reports and rival remarks of being a Muslim in disguise.
Fringe groups and a smattering of opponents have espoused rumors that he is secretly a Muslim, similar to persistent but unfounded assertions by some political foes that he was born outside the United States.
According to a poll released in July by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 17 percent of Americans believe that President Barack Obama is a Muslim.
Only 49 percent knew that the President was Christian.
The overlap of religion and race may be a factor in Pew's finding that some 62 per cent of voters are untroubled by Romney's Mormon faith.
Appearing clearly in the AP study, the effects racial sentiments extended to determine the political attitudes as well, said David O. Sears, an UCLA psychology professor.
According to the Pew Research Center, 56 per cent of registered white male voters identify as Republicans and 36 per cent as Democrats in 2012, a 20-point spread.
For Obama, however, the white male voters' drift to the Republican right may yet be less threatening than it seems.
While their numbers have grown, those of black and Hispanic voters have also risen, giving Obama a privilege in coming elections.
In either case, a Brookings Institution analysis has found that minorities will control the coming vote.
Whatever scenario comes to pass, minorities are going to matter. The new demography of the electorate guarantees it, the analysis says.
If the white Republican base turns out in full force, the votes of African Americans and growing Hispanic populations will be necessary for Democratic wins in a slew of interior states with largely white electorates.
The 2012 election will most assuredly be a battle of turnout and its outcome will greatly depend on the enthusiasm of minority voting blocks.