The Indirect Effects of Discredited Stereotypes in Judgments of Jewish Leaders


  • The authors are listed in alphabetical order. We thank Stephen Ansolabehere, Larry Bartels, Dan Carpenter, James Druckman, Martin Gilens, James Glaser, and Deborah Schildkraut for their feedback, Paul Gerber, James McGhee, and Raymond Hicks for dedicated research assistance, the Princeton University Survey Research Center and the Indiana Survey Research Center for conducting the studies, and Princeton University and the National Science Foundation's TESS project for funding.

Adam J. Berinsky is associate professor of political science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, E53-459, Cambridge, MA 02139 ( Tali Mendelberg is associate professor of politics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544-1012 (


Can stereotypes of ethnic groups have an indirect impact on voters' judgments even if voters reject them? We examine the case of Jewish leaders and hypothesize that acceptable political stereotypes (Jews are liberal) are linked in voters' minds to unacceptable social stereotypes (Jews are shady); consequently, a cue to the candidate's shadiness works indirectly by increasing the perception that the candidate is liberal, even as the shady cue is rejected. Using three national survey-experiments we randomly varied a candidate's Jewish identity, ideology, and shadiness. The cue to the rejected social stereotype indeed activates the more legitimate political stereotype. Moreover, voters give more weight to the candidate's perceived liberalism in their evaluation. Consequently, the candidate's support suffers. However, when the candidate takes a more extreme ideological position on issues, the effects disappear. The indirect influence of discredited stereotypes and the limits of those stereotypes have implications for our understanding of voting and of the legacies of discrimination.