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Black Elite Rhetoric and American Public Opinion


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Principal Investigator(s):

Lester K. Spence
Johns Hopkins University
Email: invictus@jhu.edu
Home page: http://www.lesterspence.com/

Byron D'Andra Orey
Jackson State University
Email:byron.d.orey@jsums.edu
Home page: http://www.jsums.edu/politicalscience/facstaff/orey.htm

Sample size: 500
Field period: 6/7/2009-9/17/2009

 

Abstract:

How do racial source cues influence public opinion on issues of racial equity? Although scholars have paid a great deal of attention to the influence of cues on racial attitudes, they have paid less attention to the influence of the race of elite sources. In this experiment we extend the literature on cue-taking and on racial attitudes by developing and testing an account of the effect of racial source cues.

Research Questions:

Are African Americans more predisposed to accept conservative explanations for racial inequality if those explanations are given by a black rather than a white elite?

Are European Americans more predisposed to accept conservative explanations for racial inequality if those explanations are given by a black rather than a white elite?

Does President Obama exert a signal influence on black and white public opinion?

Experimental Manipulation:

Individuals were exposed to vignette about a statement attributing the cause of racial inequality to either structural causes or to black male irresponsibility. The statement was alternately attributed to President Barack Obama, Former President Bill Clinton, Colin Powell, or anonymously in the New York Times.

Key Dependent Variables:

Support for the statement.

Summary of Findings:

Black elites influenced black and white public opinion in different ways. Blacks exposed to the racially liberal Obama condition were more likely to express support for it compared to the New York Times racially liberal (and conservative) control. Blacks exposed to the racially conservative Obama and Powell conditions were more likely to express support for it compared to blacks exposed to the New York Times racially liberal control. Whites exposed to the Obama and Powell racially conservative condition were more likely to express support for it compared to the New York Times conservative control.

References:

Lester K. Spence. 2010. "Change You Can Believe In: Evaluating the Effect of Source Cues on Racial attitudes" (in submission)


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