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The “Race Card” Revisited: Assessing Racial Priming in Policy Contests

Authors


  • This project was funded by a generous grant from the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University. We thank Kevin Arceneaux, Alan Gerber, Sanford Gordon, Donald Green, Vincent Hutchings, Tali Mendelberg, Deborah Schildkraut, Daniel Slotwiner, Paul Sniderman, Nicholas Valentino, the anonymous reviewers, and the editors for helpful comments and suggestions. Any remaining errors are our own.

Gregory A. Huber is assistant professor of political science, Yale University, PO Box 208209, New Haven, CT 06520-8209 (gregory.huber@yale.edu). John S. Lapinski is assistant professor of political science, Yale University, PO Box 208209, New Haven, CT 06520-8209 (john.lapinski@yale.edu).

Abstract

In The Race Card (2001), Mendelberg finds support for her theory that implicit racial appeals, but not explicit ones, prime racial resentment in opinion formation. She argues that citizens reject explicit appeals, rendering them ineffective, because they violate widespread egalitarian norms. Mendelberg's innovative research, however, suffers from several limitations. We remedy these deficiencies using two randomized experiments with over 6,300 respondents. We confirm that individuals do tend to reject explicit appeals outright, but find that implicit appeals are no more effective than explicit ones in priming racial resentment in opinion formation. In accounting for the differences between previous research and our own, we show that education moderates both the accessibility of racial predispositions and message acceptance. This suggests that the necessary assumptions of Mendelberg's theory hold only for different and exclusive subsets of the general population.

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