Racial misinformation : how Americans misperceive racial inequality
- Racial inequality has been a fact of American life for as long as the country has existed, but as stubborn as it is, many Americans remain unaware of its pervasiveness. I find strong evidence that, across a host of issues, survey respondents underestimate racial inequality due to limited awareness of the conditions of white and black life in America. These misperceptions of inequality appear to be sincere. I find no evidence of expressive reporting in response to questions about the degree of racial inequality, although this could also be due to the political salience of these issues. If Americans' tendency to underestimate racial inequality is the result of poor information, it seems plausible that providing better information would cause them to be more supportive of racially liberal policies. Consistent with prior research, I find the opposite to be the case: in response to an informational intervention that increases their perception of the degree of racial economic inequality, respondents express substantially more conservative preferences over racial policy. Similarly, using historical data from the General Social Survey and administrative records, I find that when racial inequality rises, many Americans estimate lower levels of racial inequality and express more conservative preferences over racial policy. Among white Americans, this "racial boomerang effect" is driven by a subgroup of respondents who believe that racial inequality is the result of structural forces such as discrimination, but who are resistant to employing structural solutions to address racial inequality. In response to an informational intervention that increases their perception of the degree of racial inequality, these "conflicted structuralists," who experience cognitive distress because their attributions of racial inequality and preferred responses to racial inequality are at odds, and who ultimately resolve this cognitive distress in favor of less egalitarian policies, exhibit a shift towards conservative preferences over racial policy that is larger than the difference in level of support for conservative racial policies between white and black respondents.
|Type of resource
|electronic resource; remote; computer; online resource
|1 online resource.
|Johnson, Jamal Roy
|Degree committee member
|Degree committee member
|Stanford University, School of Humanities and Sciences
|Stanford University, Department of Political Science
|Statement of responsibility
|Submitted to the Department of Political Science.
|Thesis Ph.D. Stanford University 2023.
- © 2023 by Jamal Roy Johnson
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
Also listed in
Loading usage metrics...