Playing a Different Race Card: Examining the Limits of Elite Influence on Perceptions of Racism

Authors

  • Thomas E. Nelson,

    Corresponding author
    1. The Ohio State University
      Thomas E. Nelson is associate professor of political science, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210. Kira Sanbonmatsu is associate professor of political science, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. Harwood K. McClerking is assistant professor of political science, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210.
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  • Kira Sanbonmatsu,

    Corresponding author
    1. Rutgers University
      Thomas E. Nelson is associate professor of political science, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210. Kira Sanbonmatsu is associate professor of political science, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. Harwood K. McClerking is assistant professor of political science, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Harwood K. McClerking

    Corresponding author
    1. The Ohio State University
      Thomas E. Nelson is associate professor of political science, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210. Kira Sanbonmatsu is associate professor of political science, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. Harwood K. McClerking is assistant professor of political science, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210.
    Search for more papers by this author

Thomas E. Nelson is associate professor of political science, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210. Kira Sanbonmatsu is associate professor of political science, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. Harwood K. McClerking is assistant professor of political science, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210.

Abstract

There is much debate about the reach and seriousness of racial prejudice today. We ask: How do ordinary people come to view events as racist? Using an experiment, we investigate the effects of elite charges of racism on public perceptions of police conduct. We test several hypotheses, including discounting, expertise, and ingroup bias, pertaining to how public stereotypes moderate elite influence. We find that stereotypes matter, and that Democrats, Republicans, blacks, and whites cannot make claims about racism with equal success.

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