Republicans Have a Serious Racism Problem

And it’s getting worse. Tom Edsall at The New York Times reviews some of the academic literature on this subject:

[R]esearchers have gathered a substantial amount of information on the opinions of white American voters.

The political scientists Michael Tesler of Brown University and David O. Sears of UCLA have published several studies on this theme […]

Specifically, Tesler and Sears found that voters high on a racial-resentment scale moved one notch toward intensification of partisanship within the Republican Party […]

Supporting the Tesler-Sears findings, Josh Pasek, a professor in the communication studies department at the University of Michigan, Jon A. Krosnick, a political scientist at Stanford, and Trevor Tompson, the director of the Associated Press-National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, use responses from three different surveys in their analysis of “The Impact of Anti-Black Racism on Approval of Barack Obama’s Job Performance and on Voting in the 2012 Presidential Election.”

Pasek and his collaborators found a statistically significant increase from 2008 to 2012 in “explicit anti-black attitudes” – a measure based on questions very similar [to] those used by Tesler and Sears for their racial-resentment scale. […]

Crucially, Pasek found that Republicans drove the change: “People who identified themselves as Republicans in 2012 expressed anti-Black attitudes more often than did Republican identifiers in 2008.”

In 2008, Pasek and his collaborators note, the proportion of people expressing anti-Black attitudes was 31 percent among Democrats, 49 percent among independents, and 71 percent among Republicans. By 2012, the numbers had gone up. “The proportion of people expressing anti-Black attitudes,” they write, “was 32 percent among Democrats, 48 percent among independents, and 79 percent among Republicans.”

In other words, recent research has discovered that, even more than in 2008, the greater the intensity of your identification with the Republican Party, the more likely it is that you harbor anti-Black attitudes.

And it’s the movement of anti-Black attitudes in recent years from 71% of Republicans to 79% that ought to be the source of most alarm, for it means that the GOP’s base voters are retrenching into the kinds of resentment and Southern-fried rigidity that alienates the party from the country’s shifting demographics as a whole (to a browner, more highly educated, internationalist, urban, white-collar, pro-gay, and feminist America).

And it might even suggest that the party’s base is actually shrinking, with non-racists heading for the door. All of this spells serious trouble for the GOP. At the very moment when the majority of the country is trending toward moderation and social liberalism, the GOP is becoming more reactionary. Not good.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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