Category Archives: Race

Most Popular CPS Blog Posts in 2018

Post developed by Katherine Pearson

Since its establishment in 2013, a total of 146 posts have appeared on the Center for Political Studies (CPS) Blog. As we approach the new year, we look back at 2018’s most-viewed recent posts. Listed below are the recent posts that you found most interesting on the blog this year.


Farris and Eck

Crime in Sweden: What the Data Tell Us 

By Christopher Fariss and Kristine Eck (2017)

Debate persists inside and outside of Sweden regarding the relationship between immigrants and crime in Sweden. But what can the data actually tell us? Shouldn’t it be able to identify the pattern between the number of crimes committed in Sweden and the proportion of those crimes committed by immigrants? The answer is complicated by the manner in which the information about crime is collected and catalogued. This is not just an issue for Sweden but any country interested in providing security to its citizens. Ultimately though, there is no information that supports the claim that Sweden is experiencing an “epidemic.”

Read the full post here.


Negativity in Debate Speeches, By Political Party, 1976-2016Exploring the Tone of the 2016 Campaign

By undergraduate students Megan Bayagich, Laura Cohen, Lauren Farfel, Andrew Krowitz, Emily Kuchman, Sarah Lindenberg, Natalie Sochacki, and Hannah Suh, and their professor Stuart Soroka, all from the University of Michigan. (2017)

The 2016 election campaign seems to many to have been one of the most negative campaigns in recent history. The authors explore negativity in the campaign – focused on debate transcripts and Facebook-distributed news content – and share their observations.

Read the full post here.


Parental LeaveAttitudes Toward Gender Roles Shape Support for Family Leave Policies

By Solmaz Spence (2017)

In almost half of two-parent households in the United States, both parents work full-time. Yet when a baby is born, it is still new moms who take the most time off work. On average, new mothers take 11 weeks off work while new dads take just one week, according to a 2016 survey carried out by the Pew Research Center. In part, that is because many new fathers in the U.S. don’t have access to paid paternity leave. Paid maternity leave is rare, too: in fact, the U.S. is the only developed nation that does not provide a national paid family leave program to new parents.

Read the full post here.


The Spread of Mass SurveillanceThe Spread of Mass Surveillance, 1995 to Present 

By Nadiya Kostyuk and Muzammil M. Hussain (2017)

By closely investigating all known cases of state-backed cross-sector surveillance collaborations, the authors’ findings demonstrate that the deployment of mass surveillance systems by states has been globally increasing throughout the last twenty years. More importantly, from 2006-2010 to present, states have uniformly doubled their surveillance investments compared with the previous decade.

Read the full post here.


gerrymanderingRedrawing the Map: How Jowei Chen is Measuring Partisan Gerrymandering 

By Solmaz Spence (2018)

“Gerrymandering”— when legislative maps are drawn to the advantage of one party over the other during redistricting—received its name in 1812, when Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry signed off on a misshapen district that was said to resemble a salamander, which a newspaper dubbed a “gerrymander.”

But although the idea of gerrymandering has been around for a while, proving that a state’s legislature has deliberately skewed district lines to benefit one political party remains challenging.

Read the full post here.


American ElectorateInside the American Electorate: The 2016 ANES Time Series Study 

By Catherine Allen-West, Megan Bayagich, and Ted Brader (2017)

Since 1948, the ANES- a collaborative project between the University of Michigan and Stanford University- has conducted benchmark election surveys on voting, public opinion, and political participation. To learn more about the study, we asked Ted Brader (University of Michigan professor of political science and one of the project’s principal investigators) a few questions about the anticipated release.

Read the full post here.


Party IDUnderstanding the Changing American Electorate 

By Catherine Allen-West (2018)

The American National Election Studies (ANES) has surveyed American citizens before and after every presidential election since 1948.  The survey provides the public with a rigorous, non-partisan scientific basis for studying change over time in American politics.

The interactive graphs in this post illustrate the changing American electorate and some of the factors that may motivate voters’ choices at the ballot box.

Read the full post here.


TwitterUsing Twitter to Observe Election Incidents in the United States 

By Catherine Allen-West (2017)

Election forensics is the field devoted to using statistical methods to determine whether the results of an election accurately reflect the intentions of the electors. Problems in elections that are not due to fraud may stem from legal or administrative decisions. Some examples of concerns that may distort turnout or vote choice data are long wait times, crowded polling place conditions, bad ballot design and location of polling stations relative to population.

Read the full post here.


InequalityInequality is Always in the Room: Language and Power in Deliberative Democracy 

By Catherine Allen-West (2017)

In a paper presented at the 2017 APSA meeting, Arthur Lupia, University of Michigan, and Anne Norton, University of Pennsylvania, explore the effectiveness of deliberative democracy by examining the  foundational communicative acts that take place during deliberation.

Read the full post here.


ElliottMaking Education Work for the Poor: The Potential of Children’s Savings Accounts 

By Katherine Pearson (2018)

Dr. William Elliott contends that we need a revolution in the way we finance college education. His new book Making Education Work for the Poor, written with Melinda Lewis, takes a hard look at the inequalities in access to education, and how these inequalities are threatening the American dream. Elliott and Lewis present data and analyses outlining problems plaguing the system of student loans, while also proposing children’s savings accounts as a robust solution to rising college costs, skyrocketing debt burdens, and growing wealth inequality. In a presentation at the University of Michigan on October 3, 2018, Elliott presented new research supporting the case for children’s savings accounts and rewards card programs.

Read the full post here.

Dog Whistles to Bullhorns: Racial Rhetoric in Presidential Campaigns, 1984-2016

By Nicholas Valentino, James Newburg and Fabian Neuner

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It), the following work was presented at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA).  The presentation, titled “Dog Whistles to Bullhorns: Racial Rhetoric in Presidential Campaigns, 1984-2016” was a part of the session “Framing Politics: The Importance of Tone and Racial Rhetoric for Framing Effects” on Friday, August 31, 2018.

Political candidates’ use of coded language to express controversial attitudes on race is nothing new – but is it more common than in the past? Nicholas Valentino, James Newburg, and Fabian Neuner analyzed data from 1984 to the present that showed campaign rhetoric in 2016 included more racial rhetoric, negative racial group outreach, and negative mentions of racial groups than any other campaign they studied.

Beginning in 1968 through the late 1990s, the expression of explicitly racist attitudes seemed to be in decline, although racially charged imagery was still used in the news and media. While the rhetoric became subtler, prejudicial attitudes were still expressed through “racially coded” language. Over time, issues like crime, welfare, and immigration evoked negative racial stereotypes that could impact political choices without explicitly mentioning race.

The shift to less directly rhetoric is important because implicit references to race and racial stereotypes may have a greater impact on perceptions than explicit ones do. The authors of this study note that previous research shows that people may dismiss obvious appeals to racial bias, while actually being influenced by more subtle or coded language. They note that the strength of this effect is uncertain, and that recent studies show respondents more likely to accept explicit racial rhetoric.

After Barack Obama’s election in 2008, racially charged discourse became more explicit, shocking some Americans. It was impossible not to notice the change in the tone of racial language in the election of 2016. But when exactly did this shift occur? Did it happen gradually or all at once?

To answer these questions, the authors examine trends in racial rhetoric reported in the news between 1984 and 2016. They set out a hypothesis: If changes in rhetoric happened more gradually over time as a result of partisan realignment, they should see trends in the use of explicit racial rhetoric that predate the 2016 campaign, and perhaps even prior to 2008. If, on the other hand, the 2016 election and the candidacy of Donald Trump is the major cause of shifts in discussions of race and ethnicity in mainstream American politics, they would expect explicit group mentions, especially hostile ones, to spike in 2016.

The researchers conducted a rigorous analysis of thousands of articles published in the New York Times and Washington Post between September 1 and Election Day during every presidential election year from 1984 to 2016. They found that while mentions of race were high throughout the study period, racial rhetoric spiked in 2016, especially with regard to immigrants and immigration.

Significant moments of presidential campaigns track with the rise and fall of explicit mentions of race in the news. As Republicans made electoral gains among Southern Whites, racial language reached a peak; during the more moderate campaigns of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, racial language declined. Race became more prominent with the historic election of Barack Obama in 2008, but declined when Obama avoided discussions of race during his reelection campaign. The authors find that 2016 was unique in the high number of explicitly negative racial statements, but that partisan realignment had been causing this change had also been driving up the acceptability of these types of messages over several years.

They found that while the total amount of group coverage did not rise sharply until 2016, the coverage that was dedicated to groups got more negative gradually over time. Notably, an important factor in the secular increase of racial rhetoric was negative language describing Arab Americans, Latinos, and Immigrants in recent years. As American demographics continue to change and non-white groups grow in numbers and political strength, these trends in political language will grow even more significant.

The Politics of Latinidad

Post developed by Mara Ostfeld and Catherine Allen-West

The effectiveness of America’s system of democratic representation, in practice, turns on broad participation. Yet only about 60 percent of voting eligible Americans cast their vote in presidential elections. This number is nearly cut in half in off-year elections (about 36 percent), and participation in local elections is even lower. This lack of electoral engagement does not fall equally across racial and ethnic subgroups. Latinos, for one, are particularly underrepresented at polling booths across the country. In 2016, eligible Latino voters were about 20 percentage points less likely to vote than their White counterparts, and about 13 percentage points less likely to vote than their Black counterparts.

This fall, a group of 24 University of Michigan undergraduate students sought to explore this disparity and pinpoint what, if anything, works to increase Latino political participation. In the class, entitled The Politics of Latinidad, CPS Faculty Associate and U-M Political Science Professor Mara Ostfeld taught her students how to measure public opinion and challenged them to analyze the factors that affect Latino political participation.

Today, more than 50,000 Latinos live in Detroit and a majority of them reside in City Council District 6 in Southwest Detroit which is precisely where this course focused. The students began by studying the history of Latinos in Southeast Michigan and exploring how Latinos played critical roles in the city’s development dating back to before World War I. They analyzed broad trends in Latino public opinion, and considered how and why these patterns might be similar or different in Detroit. Students then designed their own pre-election polls to take into the field.

In order to understand what affects voter turnout, students surveyed over 300 residents of Southwest Detroit to measure the issues that were most important to them.

Photo of U-M students \

Students pictured here: Storm Boehlke, Mohamad Zawahra, Alex Tabet , Hannel So, Sion Lee.

The results illustrate some powerful patterns. Among the issues that the residents found most important, immigration and crime stood out. Forty-nine and 45 percent of Latinos listed immigration and crime, respectively, as issues of particular concern, with only 31 percent of residents saying that they felt safe in their own home.

Latinos in Southwest Detroit feel extremely high levels of discrimination.  Seventy percent of Latinos surveyed said they felt Latinos face “a great deal” of discrimination. This significantly exceeds the roughly half of Latinos nationwide who say they have experienced discrimination.

Student Alex Garcia visits residents in Detroit.

Local issues were also at the forefront of residents’ minds. Latinos had mixed views on the city’s use of blight tickets to combat housing code violations, with one third of respondents supporting them and one third opposing them.

As local organizations, like Michigan United, continue trying to get a paid sick leave initiative on the ballot in 2018, they can expect strong support among Latinos in Southwest Detroit. About two out of every three Latinos in the area indicated they would be more likely to support a candidate who supports the paid sick leave requirement.

The students then followed up with the residents a month later to see if they planned to vote in the upcoming city council election. At this point, the students implemented some interventions that have been used to increase political participation like, evoking emotions that have been shown to have a mobilizing effect, framing voting as an important social norm, and speaking with voters immediately before an election. With the election now over, students are back in the classroom analyzing the effectiveness of these interventions and will use their first-hand experience to better understand public opinion and political participation.

 

 

Empathy Trumps Fear? The Role of Group Empathy Theory in Shaping U.S. Foreign Policy

Post developed by Catherine Allen-West

There is a long, documented history of large opinion gaps along racial/ethnic lines regarding U.S. military intervention and humanitarian assistance. For example, some research suggests that since minorities are most likely to bear the human costs of war, African Americans and Latinos might be more strongly opposed to foreign intervention. Additionally, research conducted during the Iraq war found that the majority of African Americans didn’t support the war effort because they believed that they would be the ones called upon to do the “fighting and dying” and that the war would tie up resources typically used for domestic social welfare programs, programs upon which the group depends.

One obvious explanation for these opinion gaps is simple group interest. Americans are more likely to intervene to protect the lives and human rights of victims of humanitarian crises or genocides when the victims are “like us” and this narrow racial or ethnic group interest may be what drives racial/ethnic differences in support for foreign intervention or immigration policy in the U.S. This is important because public support for military and humanitarian interventions is crucial to not only the quantity of aid but also its quality and effectiveness.

But this simple in-group, material interest explanation doesn’t always hold up empirically. African Americans were more protective of the rights of Arab Americans after 9/11, even though they perceived themselves to be at higher risk from terrorism.

In a new paper, presented at the 2017 APSA annual meeting, Cigdem V. Sirin, Nicholas A. Valentino, and José D. Villalobos examine variations in political attitudes across three main racial/ethnic groups — Anglos, African Americans, and Latinos — regarding humanitarian emergencies abroad. The researchers tested these differences using their recently developed “Group Empathy Theory” which states that “empathy felt by members of one group for another can improve group-based political attitudes and behavior even in the face of material and security concerns.” Essentially, the researchers predict that a domestic minority group can empathize with an international group experiencing hardship, even when the conflict doesn’t involve the domestic group at all and when extending help oversees is costly.

The researchers tested their theory with a national survey experiment that assessed support for pre-existing foreign policy attitudes about the U.S. responsibility to protect, foreign aid, the U.S. response to the Syrian civil war, as well as the Muslim Ban proposed by Donald J. Trump.

First, they measured levels of group empathy and found that African Americans and Latinos both display significantly higher levels of general group empathy and support for foreign groups in need.

Next, to measure opinions about the U.S. ability to protect, they provided participants with a pair of statements about the role the U.S. should plan in international politics. The first statement read: “As the leader of the world, the U.S. has a responsibility to help people from other countries in need, especially in cases of war and natural disasters.” The second statement was the opposite — denouncing such responsibility to protect. Their results show that African Americans and Latinos are likely to attribute the U.S. higher responsibility to protect people of other countries in need as compared to Anglos. Furthermore, when asked about their opinion on the amount of foreign aid allocated to help countries in need, Latinos and African Americans were more strongly in favor of increasing foreign aid and accepting Syrian refugees than were Anglos.

The researchers further examined potential group-based difference in policy attitudes regarding Trump’s controversial “Muslim ban” which called for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States. Again, both Latinos and African Americans exhibited significantly higher opposition than Anglos to the exclusionary policy targeting a specific group solely based on that group’s religion.

Further analyses also supported the researchers’ claims that group empathy is a significant mediator of these racial gaps in support for humanitarian aid and military intervention on behalf of oppressed groups oversees.

This research brings into focus some of the dynamics that shape public opinion of foreign policy. Given the role of the public in steering U.S. leadership decisions, especially as the current administration seeks to implement deep cuts to foreign aid, investigating the role that group empathy plays in public responses to humanitarian emergencies has important broader implications, particularly concerning U.S. foreign policy and national security.

Top 10 Most Viewed CPS Blog Posts in 2016

Post written by Catherine Allen-West.

Since it’s establishment in 2013, a total of 123 posts have appeared on the Center for Political Studies (CPS) Blog. As we approach the new year, we thought to take a look back at which of these 123 posts were most viewed across 2016.

 


 

01. Tracking the Themes of the 2016 Election by Lisa Singh, Stuart Soroka, Michael Traugott and Frank Newport (from the Election Dynamics blog)

“The results highlight a central aspect of the 2016 campaign: information about Trump has varied in theme, almost weekly, over the campaign – from Russia, to taxes, to women’s issues, etc; information about Clinton has in contrast been focused almost entirely on a single theme, email.”

 


 

02. Another Reason Clinton Lost Michigan: Trump Was Listed First on the Ballot by Josh Pasek

“If Rick Snyder weren’t the Governor of Michigan, Donald Trump would probably have 16 fewer electoral votes. I say this not because I think Governor Snyder did anything improper, but because Michigan law provides a small electoral benefit to the Governor’s party in all statewide elections; candidates from that party are listed first on the ballot.”

 


 

03. Motivated Reasoning in the Perceived Credibility of Public Opinion Polls by Catherine Allen-West and Ozan Kuru

“Our results showed that people frequently discredit polls that they disagree with. Moreover, in line with motivated reasoning theories, those who are more politically sophisticated actually discredit the polls more. That is, as political knowledge increases, the credibility drops substantially for those who disagree with the poll result.”

 

 


 

04. Why do Black Americans overwhelmingly vote Democrat? by Vincent Hutchings, Hakeem Jefferson, and Katie Brown, published in 2014.

“Democratic candidates typically receive 85-95% of the Black vote in the United States. Why the near unanimity among Black voters?”

 


 

05. Measuring Political Polarization by Katie Brown and Shanto Iyengar, published in 2014.

“Both parties moving toward ideological poles has resulted in policy gridlock (see: government shutdowndebt ceiling negotiations). But does this polarization extend to the public in general?”

 


 

06. What makes a political issue a moral issue? by Katie Brown and Timothy Ryan, published in 2014.

“There are political issues and then there are moral political issues. Often cited examples of the latter include abortion and same sex marriage. But what makes a political issue moral?”

 


 

07. Moral Conviction Stymies Political Compromise, by Katie Brown and Timothy Ryan, published in 2014.

Ryan’s overarching hypothesis boils non-compromise down to morals: a moral mindset orients citizens to oppose political compromises and punish compromising politicians. There are all kinds of issues for which some citizens seem resistant to compromises: tax reform, same-sex marriage, collective bargaining, etc. But who is resistant? Ryan shows that part of the answer has to do with who sees these issues through a moral lens.

 


 

08. Exploring the Effects of Skin Tone on Policy Preferences Among African Americans by Lauren Guggenheim and Vincent Hutchings, published in 2014.

In the United States, African Americans with darker skin tones have worse health outcomes, lower income, and face higher levels of discrimination in the work place and criminal justice system than lighter skinned Blacks. Could darker and lighter skinned African Americans in turn have different policy preferences that reflect their socio economic status-based outcomes and experiences?

 


 

09. What We Know About Race and the Gender Gap in the 2016 U.S. Election by Catherine Allen-West

As of October, the latest national polls, predicted that the 2016 Election results will reflect the largest gender gap in vote choice in modern U.S. history. If these polls had proven true, the 2016 results would indicate a much larger gender gap than what was observed in 2012, where women overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama over Mitt Romney. University of Texas at Austin Professor Tasha Philpot argues that what really may be driving this gap to even greater depths, is race.

 


 

10. How do the American people feel about gun control? by Katie Brown and Darrell Donakowski, published in 2014.

As we can see, the proportion of the public supporting tougher regulation is shrinking over the time period, while satisfaction with current regulations increased. Yet, support for tougher gun laws is the most popular choice in all included years. It is important to note that these data were collected before Aurora, Newtown, and the Navy Yard shootings. The 2016 ANES study will no doubt add more insight into this contentious, important issue.

 


 

What We Know About Race and the Gender Gap in the 2016 US Election

This post was created by Catherine Allen-West.

As of October, the latest national polls, predicted that the 2016 Election results will reflect the largest gender gap in vote choice in modern U.S. history. Today, according to NPR, “An average of three recent national polls shows that women prefer Clinton by roughly 13 points, while men prefer Trump by 12, totaling a 25-point gap.” If these polls prove true, the 2016 results would indicate a much larger gender gap than what was observed in 2012, where women overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama over Mitt Romney.

2012 vote by gender based on exit polls.

2012 vote by gender based on national exit poll conducted by Edison Media Research.

University of Texas at Austin Professor Tasha Philpot argues that what really may be driving this gap to even greater depths, is race. For instance, here’s the same data from the 2012 Election, broken down by gender and race.

2012 vote by gender and race based on exit polls

2012 vote by gender and race based on national exit poll conducted by Edison Media Research.

Often overlooked in the discussion of the gender gap, race figures prominently into many American’s political identities.

2016 Gender Gap in Party Identification

2016 Gender Gap in Party Identification.

2016 Gender Gap in Party Identification.

Philpot recently participated in the panel “What We Know So Far About the 2016 Elections” at the University of Michigan’s Center for Political Studies. In her talk, “Race and the Gender Gap in the 2016 Election,” Philpot outlined the potential sources for the gender gap and emphasized the role that race is playing in widening the gap.

Using data from the ANES 2016 Pilot Study, Philpot compared opinions from white and black men and women on several issues such as government spending, inequality and discrimination, and evaluations of the economy. While there were noticeable differences strictly between men and women, the real story became clear when Philpot sorted the results by gender and race. Small gender gaps exist among both whites and blacks, but the most remarkable difference of opinions on all issues is between black women and white men.

SPENDING ON HEALTH CARE AND DEFENSE

2016 Gender Gap in Spending on Healthcare and Defense.

2016 Gender Gap in Spending on Healthcare and Defense.

Perceived Gender Discrimination

Gender Gap in Perceived Discrimination Based on Gender.

2016 Gender Gap in Perceived Discrimination Based on Gender

Evaluations of the Economy

2016 Gender Gap in Economic Evaluations.

2016 Gender Gap in Economic Evaluations.

On most issues, black women and white men fall on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Philpot concludes that it’s an oversimplification to consider the gender gap as merely a gap between men and women, when, in reality, the observed gender gap is largest between white men and black women.

Watch Tasha Philpot’s full presentation here: 

 


Related Links:

Tasha Philpot on NPR:  Reports of Lower Early Voting Turnout Among African-Americans, NPR, The Diane Rehm Show (November 4, 2016)

What We Know So Far About the 2016 Elections, was held on October 5, 2016 at the Center for Political Studies, University of Michigan. The panel also included the following talks:

Stuart Soroka: Read, Seen or Heard: A Text-Analytic Approach to Campaign Dynamics
Nicholas Valentino: The Underappreciated Role of Sexism in the 2016 Presidential Race
Michael Traugott: Pre-Election Polls in the 2016 Campaign

All videos from the event can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAvEYYDf9x8XFzBWadaPcV6kFjZkBFuHP

 

 

Is Running Away From a Child Welfare Placement a Risk for Entry into the Justice System?

Post developed by Rosemary Sarri in coordination with Linda Kimmel.

This blog includes a brief report of ongoing research on career patterns of youth who drift from the child welfare system to the juvenile and adult justice system. It is taken from a paper that has been published by Rosemary Sarri, Elizabeth Stoffregen and Joseph Ryan, researchers with affiliations in the University of Michigan’s Center for Political Studies (CPS), Population Studies Center (PSC), and School of Social Work.

Rosemary SarriA growing body of research has shown that children who run away from foster care placement increase their probability of subsequent involvement in the juvenile and adult justice systems, especially for males. In the research reported here we used Michigan Department of Human Services and Wayne County administrative records to examine the experiences of two samples of youth in the child welfare system, one of which were youth who had run away from placement one or more times, and they were compared with a matched sample who had no history of running away from placement. The study covered their experiences over an eleven-year period from 2003-2011. Those selected were twelve years or older and had been assigned to the agency because of neglect or abuse by a parent. Most were also identified as having a behavioral problem such as mental illness, substance abuse or delinquency. As is the case throughout the U.S., children in this study were disproportionately youth of color (84%). Most were children of single parents and resided in urban areas of poverty, unemployment, crime and social disorganization. A slight majority were female, most of whom were placed in individual foster care and small community agencies whereas males were more likely to be placed in residential care away from their home community. When the males ran away, they typically returned to their home communities and were involved in “survival crime” until apprehended. On the other hand most females remained in their home community and often circulated among family relatives but were seldom arrested.

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Exploring the Effects of Skin Tone on Policy Preferences Among African Americans

Post developed by Lauren Guggenheim in coordination with Vincent Hutchings.

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It), the following work was presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA).  The presentation, titled “The Color of Our Skin & the Content of Our Politics,” was a part of the session “Race, Ethnicity and Political Psychology” on Thursday September 3rd, 2015.

In the United States, African Americans with darker skin tones have worse health outcomes, lower income, and face higher levels of discrimination in the work place and criminal justice system than lighter skinned Blacks. Could darker and lighter skinned African Americans in turn have different policy preferences that reflect their socio economic status-based outcomes and experiences?

Vincent Hutchings, Professor of Political Science and Research Professor in the Center for Political Studies (CPS), Hakeem Jefferson, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science and CPS affiliate, Neil Lewis, Jr., doctoral student in the department of Psychology, and Nicole Yadon, doctoral student in the Department of Political Science addressed this question in a paper presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in San Francisco.

Surprisingly, earlier research on this question based on data collected in the early 1990s found essentially no skin color differences in political attitudes.  This result was referred to as the “skin color paradox.” Researchers suggested such differences failed to appear because skin color was secondary to racial group identity—an identity which had been rigidly reinforced over time through segregation. Hutchings and his colleagues suggest that the skin color paradox should be revisited for a variety of reasons. First, the initial findings are based on limited survey evidence, most of which was not designed to measure a broad range of policy views.  Thus, it is premature to conclude that skin color is unrelated to public opinion.  Second, even if the skin color paradox was accurate in the 1990s, changes in the U.S. economy in the ensuing twenty years resulting in rising income inequality, coupled with an evolving societal perspective on racial classification, made revisiting the link between skin tone and policy preferences an important and timely question. As a result, the authors reasoned that a more contemporary survey containing a broader and more extensive range of policy and race related questions should provide a more comprehensive test of the hypothesis.

Hutchings and colleagues used the American National Election Studies (ANES) data from 2012, which has an oversample of Black respondents (overall N=511). Skin color was assessed unobtrusively by the interviewer at the beginning of the interview, using the scale shown below.skincolor

 

 

The authors found that darker skinned Blacks were more likely to support spending on welfare benefits, more likely to indicate government should provide more services and make more efforts to reduce income inequality, and were more supportive of increased spending on education relative to light-skinned Blacks. Darker skinned Blacks were also more likely to support affirmative action in the work place as well as oppose increasing levels of immigration in the U.S. These results are all in keeping with research finding that darker skinned Blacks are economically more vulnerable and are more likely to encounter color- and race-based discrimination than lighter skinned Blacks.

Next, Hutchings and colleagues conducted a separate experiment among African American subjects to see whether skin tone is an identity that can be primed, much like gender, race, or religion. That is, could the salience of skin tone be activated such that it becomes a more accurate predictor of perceptions of discrimination or racial group importance? The authors created two conditions: a control group, where subjects place themselves on the ten-point skin color scale at the end of a survey, and a treatment group, where subjects placed themselves on the same scale at the beginning of the survey.  Their expectation was that the simple act of self-placement on the skin color scale would raise the salience of this identity such that it becomes more closely linked to policy and race-based evaluations.

They found that the skin color prime could make disparities based on skin color more salient. First, when subjects were primed to think about their own skin tone (regardless of where they placed themselves on the 10-point scale), they reported that lighter skinned Blacks received lower levels of discrimination than darker skinned Blacks (in comparison to the group not receiving the prime). Second, while no relationship existed between skin tone and racial group importance in the control group, in the treatment group darker skinned Blacks were significantly more likely to report that their racial group is important to their identities than were lighter skinned Blacks.

In sum, the paper shows that skin color does influence support for race and class based policy remedies.