Racial bias in an election where one candidate is black and the other is white can affect the results — but how much?

Research from Harvard University now gives us a pretty good idea, and also reveals what may be the most and least racist states in the country.

Since surveys about racist attitudes tend to produce flawed results, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a doctoral candidate in economics at Harvard, instead looked at the online searches people make in private.

He checked the searches between 2004 and 2007 for a common racial insult that starts with “N,” excluded rap lyrics, and found most searches led to websites with racial jokes. And while he chose that particular time period because he “wanted a measure not directly influenced by feelings toward [President] Obama,” he found that from 2008 on, “Obama” was one of the most common search terms in racially-tinged searches.

Stephens-Davidowitz then compared voting records from 2004 — when all the presidential candidates where white — and 2008. Those records revealed that in areas with high racial search rates, the fact that Obama is black worked against him, so much so that it more than canceled out any increase in votes he got from the African-American community.

So based on online searches, which states were deemed the most racist?

Most racist states

1. West Virginia
2. Louisiana
3. Pennsylvania
4. Mississippi
5. Kentucky
6. Michigan
7. Ohio
8. South Carolina
9. Alabama
10. New Jersey

least racist states

1. Utah
2. Hawaii
3. Colorado
4. New Mexico
5. Idaho
6. Washington, DC
7. Minnesota
8. Oregon
9. Montana
10. Wyoming

[The New York Times]