In-Group Love and Out-Group Hate: White Racial Attitudes in Contemporary U.S. Elections
Over the past two decades, political scientists have demonstrated that racial animus among white Americans is increasingly associated with evaluations of presidential candidates. Like most work on white racial attitudes, these efforts have focused almost exclusively on the out-group attitudes whites possess toward racial and ethnic minorities. Work in social psychology, however, suggests that intergroup attitudes are usually comprised of both an out-group and an in-group component. Nevertheless, political scientists have tended to overlook or dismiss the possibility that whites’ in-group attitudes are associated with political evaluations. Changing demographic patterns, immigration, the historic election of Obama, and new candidate efforts to appeal to whites as a collective group suggest a need to reconsider the full nature and consequences of the racial attitudes that may influence whites’ electoral preferences. This study, therefore, examines the extent to which both white out-group racial resentment and white in-group racial identity matter in contemporary electoral politics. Comparing the factors associated with vote choice in 2012 and 2016, and candidate evaluations in 2018, this study finds that both attitudes were powerfully associated with candidate evaluations in 2012 and early 2016, although white out-group attitudes overshadowed the electoral impact of in-group racial attitudes by the 2016 general election. The results suggest that there are now two independent racial attitudes tied to whites’ political preferences in the contemporary U.S., and understanding the dynamics of white racial animus and white racial identity across electoral contexts continues to be an important avenue for future work.
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