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“I'm Not Prejudiced, but . . .”: Compensatory Egalitarianism in the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary



The historic 2008 Democratic presidential primary race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton posed a difficult choice for egalitarian White voters, and many commentators speculated that the election outcome would reflect pitting the effects of racism against sexism (Steinem, 2008). Because self-reported prejudices may be untrustworthy, we used the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to assess White adults’ (1) condemnation of prejudices, and (2) attitudes toward the candidates in relation to voting decisions, as part of an online survey. Results supported the proposed compensatory egalitarianism process, such that Whites’ voting choice was consistent with their implicit candidate preference, but in an effort to remain egalitarian, participants compensated for this preference by automatically condemning prejudice toward the other candidate's group. Additional findings showed that this process was moderated by participants’ ethnicity and level of prejudice, as expected. Specifically, compensatory egalitarianism occurred primarily among Whites and individuals low in explicit prejudice. Implications for candidate support, aversive racism theory, and implicit compensation processes are discussed.