Opinion | How We Think About Politics Changes What We Think About Politics

In an email, Enns stated that

regardless of the exact underlying mechanisms (and many that may be at work), evidence suggests that Trump’s rhetoric has a meaningful influence on the views his supporters express about the this problem. We certainly argue that the attitudes that individuals exhibit can be changed by what the candidate they support says and does. Although we cannot observe actual beliefs, to the extent that expressing previously unexpressed beliefs is reinforcing, it will also provide evidence of profound change. or latent racial attitudes.

Enns and Jardina argue for a strong link between Trump’s support and white people’s views on racial issues, Enns and Jardina argue in their article,

is not just the result of Trump appealing to racist whites with his own racist rhetoric or reflecting partisan racial categorization that has occurred; it was also the result of white Trump supporters changing their views to better align with Trump’s during his presidential campaign. In other words, Trump doesn’t just appeal to whites with more conservative views on race; he also made his white supporters more likely to espouse increasingly radical views on issues related to immigration and on issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the American police killings. African origin.

Andrew M. Engelhardta political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, developed a similar line of analysis in his January 2020 paper, “Racial attitudes through partisan lenses. “

In an email, Engelhardt wrote:

Part of the reason the White Democrats and the White Republicans have increasingly divergent views of black Americans is because of their partisanship. It’s not just Democrats with negative views that become Republicans, or Republicans with more positive views that become Democrats. Rather, people are changing their attitudes, and part of this, I argue, is due to the way politicians talk about black Americans. For example, Republicans may have internalized Trump’s negative rhetoric and increasingly negative views. Democrats, similarly, hear Trump say these negative things and they go against it, taking a more positive stance.

In his paper, Engelhardt wrote that based on previous research on the role of race in politics and policymaking

is an assumption that racial polymorphism causes political conflict. I debunk this conventional wisdom by arguing that political conflict can shape racial attitudes—people’s views and beliefs about groups that are understood to be racial. Political scientists have failed to investigate this possibility, perhaps because racial attitudes are seen as persistent and influential predispositions that form during childhood, long before most people America becomes a political animal. According to this line of reasoning, individuals use these preformed attitudes to create political consciousness; Racist attitudes lead to partisanship.

The growing divide between left and right extends beyond issues of race and attitudes. In his email, Engelhardt writes that his results are “suggestive of a partisan shift driving changes in other orientations that we might find to be more stable and more core to individuals.” core.” He cited research showing that “partisan influences beliefs and religious affiliations” and other studies linking “political concerns to changes in racial self-identification.” Engelhardt added that he has “a number of unpublished results where I see partisanship making Democrats more positive about gays and lesbians, transgender individuals and feminists, over time. period, in which Republicans held a more negative view of these groups during the same period (data range 2016-2020). “

In their January 2022 paper, “The Origins and Consequences of U.S. Party Racist SchemesKirill Zhirkov and Nicholas Valentino, Political scientists at the Universities of Virginia and Michigan, make an interesting argument that, in fact, “Two parallel processes structure American politics at the present time: partisan polarization and growing link between racial attitudes and preferences on issues of all kinds.”

Zhirkov and Valentino continued:

Beginning in the 1970s, Democratic candidates in presidential elections began to attract large numbers of white voters while Republicans increasingly relied on conservative white votes for race. During the same period, voters’ positions on seemingly non-racial political issues have gradually become more intertwined with racial grievances.

Altogether, the two scholars write,

The growing racial gap between Democratic and Republican bases leads to the formation of racist stereotypes about the two parties. Specifically, a large portion of American voters now consider the Democratic Party to be white and the Republican Party to be white, despite the fact that whites continue to have a majority in both parties.

The “imagined racial union of each side”, in the view of Zhirkov and Valentino,

has profound implications for the ongoing discussion in the area of ​​emotional polarization in US politics: whites feel more cold towards the Democratic Party when they imagine its coalition made up of many more for whites and feel warmer towards Republicans when they feel it is dominated by their racial group. Therefore, instead of the cause, they can accept a more conservative package of issues advocated by the modern Republican Party.

Racist attitudes, the authors argue convincingly, “are now important predictors of opinions about electoral justice, gun control, policing, international trade and health care”.

Zhirkov and Valentino note that there are long-term implications for the future of democracy here:

As soon as nationalist parties begin to vie for political power, victory – rather than implementing a certain policy – becomes a goal in itself due to a related increase in group status and self-esteem. members. Furthermore, comparative evidence suggests that the US plurality-based electoral system contributes to the politicization of ethnic divisions rather than to minimizing them. As a result, partisan racism in the United States is likely to continue, and the intensity of political conflict in the United States is likely to increase.

I asked the authors how they would describe the importance of race in contemporary American politics. In a joint email, they replied that in research to be published in the future, “we show that race is at least and often stronger than divisions such as religion, ideology and class.”

The pessimistic outlook on the prospect of a return to less divisive politics is revealed in many of the articles cited here, and the key role racial conflict plays in fueling polarization, suggests The ability of the United States to cope with its growing multi-racial, multi-ethnic population remains questionable. The country has been a full-fledged democracy for less than 60 years – since passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the changes brought about by three complementary revolutions: in civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights. These developments – or upheavals – and especially the reaction to them have tested the viability of our democracy and at least hinted at a difficult road ahead.

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