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Overtly anti-racist messaging by Democratic politicians could be alienating much of the party’s base, which responds better to proposals framed around economic class, according to a recent study by Yale University.
The study found that when Democrats frame policy around race-conscious ideas — including affirmative action — they are less likely to galvanize party voters.
Authors Micah English and Joshua L. Kalla set out to see “how racial attitudes shape policy preferences in the era of Black Lives Matter and increasing liberal views on racial issues,” their study says.
The pair used an online survey to see if race-neutral proposals attracted more or less support from voters than if they were framed by leaders in a racial context.
They asked voters if they would support increasing the minimum wage, forgiving student debt, upzoning housing, the Green New Deal, universal Medicare, and marijuana decriminalization.
To some participants, the issues were framed as promoting either racial and economic justice. To others, the policies were neutrally explained, with no mention of race or class.
The messages were always presented as those of the Democratic Party, to keep the partisan theme constant. The surveyors used real language from politicians.
The study found that white voters were more likely to support a policy framed around economic class than a race-framed or neutral policy.
“Interestingly, the null effect on the race and class frame suggests that adding the race frame diminishes the positive effect of the class frame,” the study said.
Black voters in the study were no more responsive to racial issues than class issues, the students said.
The study argues that while “old-fashioned racism” has declined over the years, “racism remains a pernicious force in white Americans’ policy preferences.”
“Despite leftward shifts in public attitudes towards issues of racial equality, racial framing decreases support for race-neutral progressive policies,” the students wrote.
On the other side of the aisle, Republicans decreased their support for issues framed around race and class.
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