Obama and the End of Racial Priming. Nicholas A. Valentino- University of Michigan. Kosuke Imai- Princeton University

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1 Obama and the End of Racial Priming Nicholas A. Valentino- University of Michigan Kosuke Imai- Princeton University L. Matthew Vandenbroek- The University of Texas at Austin Teppei Yamamoto- Massachusetts Institute of Technology Abstract Evidence has begun to emerge that instead of hastening the end of race, Barack Obama s election may have had just the opposite effect: boosting the impact of white s racial attitudes on public policies that have nothing at all to do with conflict between blacks and whites. The chronic accessibility of race, triggered presumably by the simple existence of a black President, is identified as the causal mechanism at work. We utilize several surveys with national Internet samples to test claims about the chronic linkage between racial attitudes and policies such as health care reform and views of the Tea Party movement. Racial priming theory, in particular, suggests racial rhetoric will be powerful in activating racial attitudes only when it is subtle. We find two striking results. First, as other studies have shown, there exists a strong and stable relationship between racial attitudes, measured both explicitly and implicitly, and attitudes about health care, tea party support, and Obama favorability, and other partisan attitude objects across 3 different experiments employing national samples. Second, these powerful linkages remain even when the issue is discussed using an explicitly racist frame. We suspect the racial priming affect fails to emerge because, where they were once decoupled, racism and inegalitarianism have become highly intertwined. As a result, explicitly racist argumentation no longer leads very many whites to reject a message on egalitarian grounds. An alternative explanation, that racial conservatives are simply more likely to dismiss the charge of racism by claiming the news media are biased, is not sustained. This study was supported by a grant to the first author and Professor Kosuke Imai of Princeton University from the Social Science Directorate, Political Science Division of the National Science Foundation (# ). We are indebted to Larry Bobo and participants at the RAIN initiative meeting at Harvard in October of 2012 for helpful feedback. Ted Brader also provided useful feedback. A previous draft of this paper was presented at the American Political Science Association annual meeting in Washington, D.C., September 5 th, Draft. Please do not cite without permission. 1

2 Introduction The 2008 election of the nation s first black president led many to wonder optimistically if American had transitioned into a post-racial era. The early returns do not seem confirmatory. Racial attitudes were powerful predictors of support for Obama (Piston 2010; Kinder and Dale- Riddle 2011), and his policies (Knowles et al. 2009; Knowles et al. 2010; Tesler and Sears 2010). Since the election there have been decreases in perceptions of racial discrimination in America but increases in opposition to affirmative action (Valentino and Brader 2011). Support for social justice, a general domain linked to whites racial attitudes in the past (Kaiser et al. 2009), has also declined. Whites who endorsed Obama also seem to increasingly favor their racial group in policy competition with blacks, perhaps as a result of a moral licensing process (Effron et al. 2009). The logic goes that if the country could elect a black man president, further effort to balance the playing field is unnecessary and may, in fact, represent unfair bias against whites. But is there any systematic evidence for such an underlying backlash? Numerous high-profile partisan incidents also suggest race plays a continuing role, at least occasionally. Posters emblazoned with racist visuals and speech, such as depicting Obama or the first lady as an ape or invoking the n word, have appeared at Tea Party rallies. Mark Williams, a leader of one Tea Party group, penned a letter to Abe Lincoln that branded the NAACP as a racist organization dedicated to unfairly redistributing white wealth to lazy blacks. On the day of the healthcare reform vote, several news outlets reported that Tea Party demonstrators spat upon and shouted racial epithets at African American house members. Conservative activist Andrew Breitbart received national attention himself for accusing Shirley Sherrod, an African American Department of Agriculture employee, of racism by carefully editing a speech she gave to the NAACP on the topic of racial reconciliation. A conservative 2

3 radio host, Laura Schlesinger, launched an on-air, epithet laden tirade suggesting the use of the n-word by whites is protected by the First Amendment. Glenn Beck decried Obama s deep seated hatred for white people or the white culture, and later rallied supporters at the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of MLK s I Have a Dream speech to reclaim the civil rights movement. A California Republican Central Committee member sent an to co-workers depicting Obama as a chimpanzee as evidence that he could not have a birth-certificate. These incidents, in combination with the early returns from more systematic studies on the impact of Obama s election, suggest that me may not, in fact, have witnessed the end of race in America. In fact, some have made an even more provocative claim: Obama s race may lead many Americans, especially whites, to respond to every policy proposed by his administration along racial lines (Tessler & Sears 2010). Put differently, this view suggests impact of race is not minimal, but chronically high, even in policy domains having little directly to do with racial redistribution. If this is the case, it would represent a significant change in the historical process whereby racial attitudes came to influence policy views. It suggests the era of racial priming- whereby subtle racial cues are required to activate powerful racial attitudes in the minds of white citizens when they are evaluating national issues- may be ending. In this paper, we systematically test the hypothesis that racial attitudes have become more chronically powerful predictors of even non-racial policy preferences. We focus primarily on healthcare reform, a highly salient issue during our data collection, and which other studies suggest has become racialized (Knowles et al. 2010; Tesler 2010), but also examine views on a variety of contemporary political figures (Obama, Palin, Glenn Beck) and the Tea Party Movement. In three national studies, we test the classical racial priming paradigm by comparing the impact of racial attitudes across three experimental conditions: Implicit racial cues, explicit 3

4 racial cues, and a neutral control. We find that racial attitudes (measured both implicitly and explicitly) powerfully predict opinions on a wide variety of partisan and policy topics. Moreover, unlike in previous studies of racial priming, the predictive power of racial attitudes is robust to the presence of explicit racist arguments previously shown to neutralize their effects. We explore several alternatives for the failure of the standard model of racial priming and find evidence for a striking explanation: Whereas prior to 2008 many white Americans felt both resentful toward blacks and strongly bound by the norm of egalitarianism, far fewer held this combination of views in Instead, highly racially resentful whites also espoused less egalitarian views. As a result, the ambivalence whites once felt as a result of the opposing pull of these two forces seems to have have decreased. Racial Priming Reviewed Abundant evidence from psychology indicates that recent or frequent activation of ideas in memory automatically facilitates their use in subsequent judgment tasks (Higgins et al 1985; Higgins et al 1977; Srull and Wyer 1979; Bargh 1996). This notion is consistent with a view of memory as organized in an associative network of schemas, or related opinion nodes (Anderson 1983). One salient node activates other relevant nodes in memory, a process dubbed spreading activation (Collins and Loftus 1975). Given the complexity of the political world, it is hardly surprising citizens typically base candidate evaluations, policy opinions, and the like on considerations that are most accessible or at the top of the head (Taylor and Fiske 1978; Iyengar and Kinder 1987; Kinder 2003). Experimental studies have shown media messages are a particularly powerful means of altering the criteria by which citizens evaluate politics (e.g. Iyengar and Kinder 1987). The association between attitudes and candidate evaluations (or policy opinions) in a condition where priming occurred is greater than that among a group 4

5 receiving no prime. Media priming is driven by the mere attention of the news to some issues rather than others (Kinder, 2003, p. 365). Racial priming, or more generally group priming (Jamieson 1992), proposes that subtle racial cues in news coverage, political advertising or candidate speech activate group attitudes, boosting their effects on candidate evaluation or policy opinion (Mendelberg 1997, 2001; Valentino 1999; Valentino et al 2002; Domke 2001; White 2007). At the heart of racial priming is a societal shift away from explicit elite claims of biogenetic inferiority of blacks and the rise egalitarian norms (Mendelberg 2001). Recent evidence abounds that racial stereotypes are activated automatically and often operate unconsciously (Kawakami et al 1998; Perdue et al 1990; Dovidio et al 1986; Eberhardt et al 2004; Fazio et al 1995). In fact, it has been suggested such negative stereotypes can be suppressed only with attention and cognitive effort (Devine 1989; Devine et al 1991). The racialization of elite discussions of social welfare policy (Gilens 1999; Gilliam 1999) and crime (Gilliam and Iyengar 2000; Graham and Lowery 2004; Hurwitz and Peffley 2005) has been welldocumented, and suggest that a wealth of subtle media cues may serve as racial primes. Cue subtlety, in fact, is crucial to Mendelberg s (2001) Implicit-Explicit (IE) model of racial priming. A basic premise of her theory is that many whites feel ambivalent about matters of race because they are pulled in opposite directions by two powerful forces. On the one hand, there is persistent resentment toward blacks for their perceived refusal to adopt basic American values such as individualism and hard work, forming the basis of the symbolic racism belief system (Sears and Kinder 1971; McConahay and Hough 1976; Kinder and Sears 1981; Kinder and Sanders 1996; Sears and Henry 2003). On the other hand, since the Civil Rights era, a strong norm of equality exerts pressure for whites to reject racially biased or insensitive justifications 5

6 for a given policy stand. As a result, the theory suggests that racial attitudes will powerfully effect policy views only if racial cues are subtle, or implicit. Mendelberg (2001) operationalizes the implicit/explicit distinction dichotomously; explicit messages contain overtly racial wording such as black and African-American, while implicit messages cue race only with visual images of African-Americans. Implicit racial messages may also employ racially coded language such as inner city, poverty or welfare (see Valentino 1999; Valentino et al 2002; Huber and Lapinski 2006; White 2007). The IE model has also found support in cross-sectional survey data from presidential campaigns. Jamieson (1989; 1992) and Mendelberg (1997; 2001) both find strong evidence that coded appeals in the 1988 presidential election most notably the Willie Horton ad aired on behalf of the George Bush campaign activated white voters racial predispositions. However, whites rejected the Horton message after media accounts explicitly identified its racist undertones (Mendelberg 2001). Huber & Lapinski (2008), attempt to replicate the basic predictions of the IE model using an experiment performed on a large national sample. They test whether an issue advertisement that explicitly discusses race in its appeal to end welfare primes racial attitudes more powerfully either than a message which does so implicitly (by not using racial language but which contains a visual race cue) or one that does not discuss race at all (a neutral message about getting out the vote). They find no support for the IE model. Instead, their results indicate that racial attitudes are quite powerful predictors of policy views regardless of whether the message is implicit or explicit. Their explanation for this null finding has to do with variation in the priming effect across levels of education. The most educated automatically bring their racial beliefs (and other predispositions) to bear on their policy views regardless of the message. The least educated can 6

7 be primed, but they do not reject explicit racial messages so their racial beliefs are triggered either way. While a plausible explanation for the null results they find, Huber & Lapinski s explanation is not the only possible one, and they hint at another in their paper without testing it. In their discussion, the authors mention that perhaps Mendelberg s subjects had a stronger attachment to the norm of equality than our respondents, and therefore reacted more negatively to the explicit appeal (p. 436). We take up this possibility more explicitly, and suggest that this reduced pull of egalitarianism might not simply be a function of sampling differences. Instead, it is possible that resentment has become increasingly tied to inegalitarian views in the population as a whole. 1 Our first goal, then, is to systematically test the classic racial priming paradigm in the post Obama era. Our hypotheses are drawn directly from the racial priming literature. The standard model predicts racial attitudes will powerfully affect views of a variety of political targets (including attitudes toward health care reform and evaluations of partisan leaders such as Obama, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin), but only when racial cues are subtle (implicit). When racial arguments are made explicit, the influence of racial attitudes should diminish precipitously as a result of the pull of egalitarian norms. Our experimental design is simple and parallels those in the racial priming literature discussed above. We will compare the impact of racial attitudes in conditions exposed to three different frames, one containing explicitly race cues, one containing implicit race cues, and a control group containing no race cues. 1 Mendelberg (2008) criticizes Huber & Lapinski s conclusions on a number of methodological grounds. In particular, Mendelberg expresses concern about the potential for a failure to treat problem in the large internetbased experiment Huber and Lapinsky perform. The null result, in other words, could also occur if subjects in both explicit and implicit conditions failed to receive or pay attention to the advertisement. We do not take a stand on that debate, but instead replicate the basic tests and explore a distinct substantive explanation for the null result Huber & Lapinski discover. 7

8 Statistically speaking, we will regress each dependent variable against our racial attitudes measures and dummy variables for experimental condition in this simple 3 group design: Y = b 0 + b 1 (Racial Attitude) + b 2 (Racial Attitude Implicit Cue ) + b 3 (Racial Attitude No race Cue) + b 4 (Implicit Cue) + b 5 (No race cue) + e. The excluded group in these models is the explicit racial cue. The IE model predicts that the sum of b 1 and b 2, which measures the total influence of race among the implicit group, will be significantly larger in magnitude than the standalone b 1, which captures the total effect of racial attitudes for the explicit group. A small or insignificant b 2, meanwhile, suggests that the explicit cues failed to activate the norm of equality sufficiently to mitigate the slope on racial attitudes. For example, in the case of support for new healthcare reforms, the IE model predicts that b 2 will be negatively signed and statistically significant, while b 1 will be much smaller in magnitude because it represents the effect of racial attitudes in the explicit race condition. Methods To examine the IE model and racialized discussion of healthcare reform, we conducted three survey experiments on national samples between May and August 2010 through YouGov/Polimetrix. Rather than interacting with a live interviewer in person or by telephone, respondents answered questions over the internet, which we suspect reduces social desirability pressures and produce greater candor in the interviews. YouGov/Polimetrix uses a sample matching technique which, although in its infancy, is gaining popularity in academic research applications, has been shown to produce samples that meet or exceed the quality of those based on traditional telephone polling (Berrens et al 2003; Sanders et al 2007). 1 8

9 The stimuli for all three experiments were styled after a newspaper website stories datelined in the Hartford metropolitan area, a region we chose for its civic nickname, The Insurance Capital of the World. Also, the district incumbent, John Larson, is a multi-term Democrat who voted in favor of the House version of the healthcare bill. An actual Associated Press story detailing preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, was employed as a control to subject group. All three stories were approximately the same length and did not differ in layout, author byline or dateline. The stimuli are described in detail below, and in the Appendix. Independent variables In all three experiments, we measured symbolic racism using the standard fourproposition agree-disagree battery employed by the National Elections Study, indexed to a 0-1 scale (see appendix for details). The measure performed very consistently, with the samples strongly skewed toward higher levels of symbolic racism. In the third study, which contained the largest sample, the mean was.66 (s.d.=.29) and a median of.75. The highest possible score of 1 was the modal category (17.6%, n=402). At the opposite end of the scale, just 59 respondents (2.6% of the sample) received the lowest possible score of zero. In all three studies, we measured respondents automatic preferences for blacks or whites using a brief version of the Implicit Association Test (hereafter BIAT) developed by Sriram and Greenwald (2009). 2 For this task, respondents categorized photographs and words using their computer keyboards. After a couple of warm-up exercises, respondents were shown randomized valence words (Wonderful, Best, Superb, Excellent and Awful, Horrible, Terrible, Worst) and grayscale headshots of whites and African-Americans. 3 In one trial, participants categorized 20 stimuli as either EUROPEAN AMERICAN or GOOD or Anything Else. The other trial 9

10 followed the same procedure, but with the new pairing of AFRICAN AMERICAN or GOOD. The order of these trials was randomized, with response times recorded in milliseconds from the appearance of the word or photo and first keystroke. The BIAT predicts that individuals with an automatic preference for whites should be slower to categorize stimuli in the non-stereotypical (black/good) pairing than the stereotypical (white/good) pairing. To eliminate noise from the data, individuals who averaged more than two seconds per stimulus were discarded as outliers. 4 In Study 3 the measure revealed on average a slight prejudice for whites, with a mean difference in response times of 34 ms, skewed slightly toward white preferences (median 32 ms). The results were similar in the other two experiments. In Study 3, respondents attitudes toward equality norms were summed in a 0-1 index built from three standard NES questions, detailed in the appendix. Despite the prevalence of symbolic racism in this national sample of whites, egalitarian norms enjoyed strong, but hardly universal, endorsement. A slight majority of our sample (53%) scored at the neutral point or higher, with about 6% (136) scoring the lowest possible of zero and 11% (254), reaching the upper bound of 1. The sample mean was.56 (s.d.=.29) with a median of.58. Dependent Variables We constructed four distinct measures of healthcare opinion: general approval of the bill, support for specific provisions that had been proposed during the debate, anticipated effects of the passed legislation, and anger toward the health bill in general (Study 3 only). The first of these is the most direct, asked on a five-point approve-disapprove scale (1. strongly approve; 2. somewhat approve; 3. neither approve nor disapprove; 4. somewhat disapprove; 5. strongly disapprove): 10

11 As you have probably heard, health care reform legislation has just been passed by the Congress and signed into law. In general, how strongly do you approve or disapprove of this new legislation? Support for specific healthcare provisions was similarly gauged on a 5 point scale (Strongly Oppose to Strongly Support, with a neutral category): We would like to get your opinion on a few specific health care proposals that have been discussed. Please indicate whether you support or oppose each of the following proposals. Creating a government insurance plan for people who cannot afford or are unable to get private insurance (The Public Option) Creating insurance cooperatives, sometimes referred to as a Health Care Exchange, from which individuals can buy coverage for prices similar to those paid by employer plans Requiring insurance companies to sell insurance to all people, even if they have preexisting conditions Allowing young adults to remain on their parents health insurance up to the age of 27, even if they no longer live at home or are in school. Support for the four provisions was summed to a single (0-1) index. We also measured respondents optimism toward the new healthcare reform law on a 5-point scale (1. Make things much better; 2. Make things a little better; 3. No difference; 4. Make things a little worse; 5. Make things much worse): Considering the health care legislation that has just become law, for each of the following do you think it would actually make things better for your family, make things worse, or make no difference at all? The ability of people with pre-existing medical conditions to get health insurance Health insurance coverage for people who currently do not have it Medicare benefits for senior citizens The overall cost of health care for all Americans Taxes on the middle class Taxes on the rich The quality of health care for families other than your own These seven effects were indexed to a single, interval-level measure. In Study 3, we also measured respondents anger toward the healthcare bill in general, (1. I feel this emotion strongly; 2. I feel this emotion somewhat; 3. I feel this emotion a little; 4. I do not feel this 11

12 emotion at all). Finally, we measured respondents favorability toward President Barack Obama, the Tea Party Movement, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin (Study 3 only). Results Study 1 Study 1 was administered May to 311 subjects (234 whites). The stimuli depict a clash between protestors on both sides of the healthcare debate on the day of House vote. In the implicit condition, the pro-reform group is described as predominantly from Hartford s urban core, and depicted in a photograph of actual African-American protestors, while Tea Party demonstrators are described as being mostly from more affluent suburban areas. The explicit condition textually identifies the two groups as predominantly black and white, with the photo caption also mentioning the pictured marchers are in a black neighborhood of West Hartford. There are 14 implicit/explicit cue pairings in study 1 stimuli, including the headline and photo caption, as detailed in Table A1. The explicit story uses the word black eight times, the term African-American three times, and the word white seven times. The explicit condition defines the terms of the healthcare debate in Hartford as forming around racial dynamics, while the implicit describes the cleavage as city vs. outlying areas. The most extreme cue in the explicit condition is when protestors are quoted as chanting Go home (n-words), no handouts here, substituting freeloaders in the implicit condition. The expectation of the IE model is that such an extreme racial cue would trigger the norm of equality and thus suppress the use of racial attitudes in evaluations of health care reform and contemporary political figures. The top panel of Table 1 displays the OLS coefficients for the IE models using the symbolic racism measure as the racial moderator. The top row coefficients are the effect of 12

13 symbolic racism in the explicit conditions, the second row represents the slope deviation from those effects among those in the implicit condition and the third row represents the slope deviation for the control group. Two patterns are immediately evident: First, across the board in the explicit condition, symbolic racism is powerfully correlated with conservative attitudes toward the healthcare bill, Obama, the Beck thermometer, and support of the Tea Party. Second, we do not find any support for the IE model here. We expected the effect of symbolic racism to be smaller and perhaps statistically insignificant in the explicit conditions, but larger in the implicit conditions. However, none of the interaction term coefficients is statistically discernable from zero, and are substantively tiny. The insignificance of the third row coefficients is also unexpected. Even in the control group, who read an innocuous feature about the Olympics, the power of racial attitudes to predict these dependent phenomena was gigantic. --Table 1 about here-- While resentment stemming from the belief that blacks have been unfairly privileged by government is clearly linked to judgments of both policies and contemporary political actors, the BIAT measure allows us to evaluate the impact of more automatic racial prejudice. The BIAT also serves as an alternative measure of racial attitudes that may not be susceptible to the same criticisms as symbolic racism: The automatic preference of white over black faces is unlikely to be related to non-racial ideology or the preference for small government. To test this, we ran the same regression models replacing symbolic racism with the BIAT scores as the moderator in the IE regressions. The bottom panel of Table 1 suggests the relationship between automatic racial preferences and policy views is in the same direction as that of symbolic racism in the explicit condition. These results are merely suggestive, however, as none of the top row coefficients attains statistical significance. As with the symbolic racism measure, we found no support for the 13

14 IE model using the BIAT. If anything, the opposite pattern seemed to emerge. The interactions, while not significant, are all in the opposite direction of that predicted by the IE model. For example, reading the implicit story actually eliminates the negative relationship between automatic prejudice against blacks and approval of healthcare reform present in the explicit condition. Indeed this pattern holds across all the dependent variables: the sign on the interaction coefficient in each case indicates the effect of prejudice is smaller, not larger, in the implicit condition than it is in the explicit condition. These results are puzzling, since they fall so far from the expectations of the standard racial priming model. In the case of explicitly measured racial attitudes like symbolic racism, the frame does not modify its effects on policies or political figures in any way. Even more surprising is the strong correlation between racial attitudes and the dependent phenomena among the control group. For the BIAT measure, the pattern is, if anything, the opposite of expectations. We ran a second study to determine whether the first study or sample was somehow idiosyncratic. Study 2 Given the first experiment s failure to trigger the norm of equality, we redesigned the stimuli for Experiment 2, which was administered June to 321 subjects, this time all white. The new stories described outrage about a campaign advertisement aired by a fictitious Tea Party-backed candidate named Tim Stassney seeking the Republican nomination for the 1 st Congressional District of Connecticut. 5 To avoid possible participant judgments of media bias the explicit condition in the first study had forced the journalist to insinuate whether protesters were racially motivated, we framed the story around a political ad, with the journalist herself refraining from personal commentary. 14

15 We also increased the severity of the explicit cues in an effort to activate the norm of equality more powerfully. In total, there are 15 implicit/ explicit cue pairings in the story (including headline, photo text and photo caption), which are detailed in Table A2. The explicit condition includes five uses each of the words black and white, plus three uses of African- American. The implicit condition still leans heavily on racially coded dichotomies of urban/suburban and rich/poor. The text of both the implicit and explicit stimuli extensively details an advertisement entitled Bleeding us Dry, in which healthcare supporters are shown celebrating passage of healthcare reform represented by the same photograph of African- American demonstrators edited to appear as a screen shot. In both versions, the ad s tagline is Guess who s paying for their party. In the ad, Stassney vows to overturn the healthcare bill, which he decries as Congressional Democrats giveback to either labor unions (implicit) or African-American voters and groups like ACORN and the NAACP (explicit). In the explicit condition, Stassney ties the healthcare bill with racialized entitlement programs like welfare and food stamps, while the comparisons in the implicit condition are bailouts and the stimulus. As with the Study 1 stimuli, the fictitious ad described in the story alternates actual claims made by right wing pundits that the healthcare bill is a form of tyranny or reparations for slavery. The explicit condition quotes Stassney: (W)e re not going to let Big Government make us pay reparations for slavery now. The implicit counterpart is (W)e re not going to let Big Government bring tyranny back now. Underscoring this language, the screen shot photo in the implicit condition has a graphic reading Socialist Tyranny, and the explicit condition reads Reparations for slavery. The remainder of the story describes complaints about the ad. To avoid activating subjects partisanship, we specifically avoided having any of the critics represent Democratic, 15

16 African-American or healthcare reform interests. Instead, we ascribed the outcry to a bipartisan watchdog group convened by the Connecticut League of Women Voters and the Interfaith Alliance, a multidenominational church group, and Stassney s opponent for the Republican primary, Mark Zydanowicz. 6 In the implicit condition, the bipartisan group complains that the ad is unproductive, while in the explicit condition the group directly calls the ad racist. Zydanowicz is quoted as saying Republicans should not be pitting whites against blacks in the explicit story and pitting rich against poor in the implicit story. The story also describes Stassney as defending his ad, contrasting whites (suburbanites) as those who play by the rules, go to work and have insurance with blacks (city people) who want the rest of us to foot the bill for their healthcare. We also included in the explicit treatment an account of Stassney laughing off a supporter shouting the n-word at a Tea Party rally; The supporter in the implicit treatment shouts bums and freeloaders. In summary, if the explicit invocation of race (including inflammatory epithets) activates the norm of equality and causes respondents to decouple racial considerations from evaluations of healthcare or political figures, this story should do the trick. The top panel of Table 2 shows a nearly identical pattern to the one we observed in the first study. Even the more intense explicit story did not suppress the power of symbolic racism. Even with the revised news stories, the results for the symbolic racism measure were unchanged; race remained highly salient, irrespective of condition. Only 3 out of the 7 dependent variables displayed interaction terms in the theoretically expected direction, and none was close to statistically significant. --Table 2 about here-- The results for the BIAT measure (displayed in the bottom panel of Table 2), were different than those for SR, and different than what we found for the BIAT in Study 1. These 16

17 tests, in fact, provided modest support for the IE model. The model predicts a weak relationship between automatic preferences for whites and opinions about various policies and political figures in the explicit condition, and that is what we found. The BIAT is uncorrelated with any of the DV s in the explicit condition. However, in these models the interactions were all in the expected direction, and were statistically significant in two cases (overall healthcare bill and Obama approval). These results are the only instance, across all three studies and different measures of racial attitudes, where the IE model s predictions were even marginally apparent. Since this pattern was in the direction suggested by the model, we decided to replicate it with a larger sample in order to determine whether our resolution of these effects could be improved. Study 3 Study 3 employed identical stimuli as Study 2, but with a much larger sample in order to estimate the effect more precisely, and to determine whether the timing of the measurement of racial attitudes (in the pre-test as opposed to the post test) would alter the result. YouGov/ Polimetrix interviewed a sample of 2,394 voting-age Americans from July 16 to August 8, with 71% of the interviews beginning Aug 1. 2 The top panel of Table 3 displays the OLS coefficients for the IE models of dependent variables administered in Study 3 with symbolic racism as the moderator. It is again clear that the expectations of the IE model were unmet. Across all dependent variables, the predictive power of racial resentment is gigantic, with all coefficients in the expected direction and statistically significant at p <.001. Again, none of the interaction terms is statistically significant, 2 This experiment also employed a measurement design manipulation in which we altered the timing of the measurement of racial attitudes in the pre-test versus the post-test. This is a potentially important distinction, because while the post-test measurement design might suffer from endogeneity bias (the treatment could affect the distribution of responses to the racial attitude measure), the pre-test measurement design also has drawbacks (asking about racial attitudes in the pretest could prime racial sentiments among all subjects, thus eliminating any effect of the prime). In these studies, however, we found very similar results in both pre- and post-test measurement designs. To conserve power, we pool the results across these two designs. 17

18 indicating the implicit condition and even the control did not increase the association between racial attitudes and any of the dependent variables shown. Needless to say, these results do not show evidence of racial priming in the presence of subtle racial media cues. On the contrary, they tell a story of the very large influence of racial attitudes regardless of the frame with which healthcare is discussed, or if any frame at all is present. --Table 3 about here-- The positive BIAT results from Study 2 were also not replicated here. The bottom panel of Table 3 shows the coefficient for the standalone BIAT measure is in the expected direction in every regression model of Study 3, and attains conventional statistical significance in all but one (provisions, p=.11). The results are especially strong for anger toward the healthcare bill hardly surprising given the visceral nature of both measures, support for the Tea Party and favorability toward Sarah Palin. None of the interaction term coefficients comes close to statistical significance. Discussion Our primary conclusion is similar to that given by Huber & Lapinksi (2008): Support for the IE model failed to materialize across three national experiments with separate (and in one case very large) samples. The impact of racial attitudes appeared strong and persistent across conditions, even in the control condition where no information about health care was presented at all. What explains these null results? One possibility is a failure to treat: respondents may simply not have been reading the news story at all. Treatment efficacy problems can loom large in studies such as these: If subjects are able to avoid reading the news story then racist sentiments would not be rejected. However, this problem did not occur in the current study. Subjects answered several manipulation checks 18

19 to identify the topic and frame of the stories they read with high accuracy. From five response categories taxes, the mortgage crisis, the Iraq War, healthcare reform, and the Olympics about 90% of the implicit and explicit subjects (90.4% and 89.4%) correctly named healthcare as the main topic. Moreover, about 7% of the subjects in these two groups named taxes, versus trivial response rates for the remaining categories, suggesting a rhetorical interpretation of the healthcare debate rather than factual misunderstand of the story. The correct Olympics response was returned by 95.9% of the control group. Additionally, explicit subjects were significantly more likely than implicit subjects to believe their story emphasized racial conflict as much or more than class conflict (92% to 53%, p<.001). Another possible explanation for the failure of the racial priming hypothesis in these studies is that racial conservatives have begun to reject the calling out of racism in political communications. In other words, these citizens may simply dismiss the charge of racism as the work of a biased, politically correct news media. If this were the case, then subjects high in racial resentment should be particularly critical of the explicit racial story: They should feel it is especially biased, unfair, offensive, disgusting, etc. Table 4 shows Experiment 3 subjects mean ratings of the stories they read on several dimensions and their correlations between symbolic racism. 7 Unsurprisingly, those with symbolic racism scores over the midpoint of.5 were considerably more critical of the stories compared to racial liberals, finding them unfair, sensationalized and biased in favor of healthcare reform. However, racial conservatives and racial liberals exhibited very similar reactions to the explicitly racial frame compared to the implicit one. For example, regardless of whether a subject was high or low on SR, the explicit story was considered less fair, more sensationalized, biased, offensive and disgusting. If racial conservatives were simply dismissing explicit frames 19

20 compared to implicit ones at a higher rate than liberals, we would see large differences in these reactions to each condition. Since this was not the case, we must conclude that the rejection of the story simply because the journalist was playing the race card is not the explanation for finding no racial priming effects in these studies. --Table 4 about here-- A final explanation for the failure of the racial priming hypothesis in these studies is that there has been a shift in public norms regarding race and equality. To put it simply, in order for explicit racial cues to function as predicted by the IE model, the correlation between inegalitarianism and racial resentment cannot be very high. The reason is that, according to the theory, highly racially resentful citizens will reject explicitly racist messages because they also believe in the norm of egalitarianism. These individuals are, then, both above average in egalitarianism and in racial resentment. As the proportion of the citizenry who has these joint characteristics of resentment and yet egalitarian norms increases, the correlation between inegalitarianism and resentment should decrease. One explanation for the lack of a standard priming effect is that inegalitarianism and racial resentment have become much more tightly linked since the election of Barack Obama. If this the case, when racially resentful citizens become aware of the racism in the message, they would not be as likely to reject the message because they would not be bound by the norm of egalitarianism to do so. Figure 1 displays the correlation between egalitarianism and racial resentment over time. The instrumentation throughout the time series is identical for both measures (See Appendix for exact question wording). From 1986 until just before Obama s election (in the pre-election interview of the 2008 ANES), the correlation is moderate. At the beginning of the period, and fluctuates from a low of.27 (in 1986) to a high of.42 (in 1992). Even in the pre-election poll of 20

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