The Public’s Anger: White Racial Attitudes and Opinions Toward Health Care Reform

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Abstract

Pundits and politicians debated whether race was implicated in the rancorous public forums and demonstrations over health care reform. Research suggests that for many white Americans, racial predispositions play a greater role in their opinions on health care than non-racial predispositions. Building on this work, I examine the extent to which anger uniquely activates white racial attitudes and increases their effect on preferences for health care reform. My theory suggests this effect occurs because anger and thoughts about race are tightly linked in memory. Using a nationally representative experiment over two waves, I induced several emotions to elicit anger, fear, enthusiasm, or relaxation. The results show that anger uniquely pushes racial conservatives to be more opposing of health care reform while it triggers more support among racial liberals. On the other hand, anger does not enhance the effect of race-neutral principles on health care reform.