There has been previous research that suggests that your name can affect how likely you are to be called for a job interview – a particular US study found that having an African American name is a significant disadvantage. Name your children wisely to out-wit the recruiters.
So it should probably not come as a surprise that someone decided to find out what the impact of Barack Obama’s middle name was. (His middle name being the Arabic name “Hussein”).
According to the results, using Obama’s middle name when showing a speech he made in Cairo leads Israeli Jews to perceive him as biased toward Palestinians.
Heart-warmingly, there were no significant effects when the same test was carried out with US participants, perhaps because they were already more familiar with Barack Obama’s middle name and his views and policies.
This effect leads me to question what exactly is driving the Israeli-Jewish result. If, at the time of the experiment, Israelis were less familiar with Barack Obama’s views and policies, they would only have the speech and his name to go on when asked about whether his proposals were pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian. And the speech may not provide sufficient information on how exactly any proposals might work in practice. In which case, it might be argued that the middle name might provide useful information, if it is generally the case that those with Arabic names tend to be pro-Palestinian.
But if this is the explanation behind it, then Barack Obama clearly has a lot of work to do in convincing both sides that he can make unbiased and fair contributions to the process.