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Black Candidates, White Voters: Understanding Racial Bias in Political Perceptions

Carol K. Sigelman, Lee Sigelman, Barbara J. Walkosz and Michael Nitz
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 39, No. 1 (Feb., 1995), pp. 243-265
DOI: 10.2307/2111765
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2111765
Page Count: 23
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Black Candidates, White Voters: Understanding Racial Bias in Political Perceptions
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Abstract

Social psychological theories of in-group responses to members of out-groups are used to generate hypotheses about the willingness of white voters to vote for minority candidates. Eight different hypotheses about the impact on voting decisions of the candidate's race or ethnicity and the candidate's and voter's issue positions. Analysis of variance of data from an experiment with 656 Anglo adults in which the candidate's race-ethnicity and issue positions were manipulated. Minority status enhanced the perception that moderate and conservative candidates would be compassionate toward disadvantaged groups but created doubts about a candidate's competence. Voters were no more or less likely to vote for black or Hispanic candidates than for Anglo candidates, possibly because the advantages of being perceived as compassionate were offset by the disadvantages of being stereotyped as unable to manage major policy issues. These findings supported no single theoretical perspective unequivocally, but suggested, in line with an "assumed characteristics" perspective that evaluations ultimately depend on what traits specific racial or ethnic stereotypes suggest minority groups members should have, what traits they do have, and what evaluative significance is attached to these assumed and individuated traits, as influenced by their desirability and correspondence with expectancy.

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