Political Behavior

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 159–192 | Cite as

The Electoral Consequences of Skin Color: The “Hidden” Side of Race in Politics

Original Paper

Abstract

Despite the significant role that skin color plays in material well-being and social perceptions, scholars know little if anything about whether skin color and afrocentric features influence political cognition and behavior and specifically, if intraracial variation in addition to categorical difference affects the choices of voters. Do more phenotypically black minorities suffer an electoral penalty as they do in most aspects of life? This study investigates the impact of color and phenotypically black facial features on candidate evaluation, using a nationally representative survey experiment of over 2000 whites. Subjects were randomly assigned to campaign literature of two opposing candidates, in which the race, skin color and features, and issue stance of candidates was varied. I find that afrocentric phenotype is an important, albeit hidden, form of bias in racial attitudes and that the importance of race on candidate evaluation depends largely on skin color and afrocentric features. However, like other racial cues, color and black phenotype don’t influence voters’ evaluations uniformly but vary in magnitude and direction across the gender and partisan makeup of the electorate in theoretically explicable ways. Ultimately, I argue, scholars of race politics, implicit racial bias, and minority candidates are missing an important aspect of racial bias.

Keywords

Race Electoral politics Candidate evaluation Skin color Bias Black candidates 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Data collection for this experiment was made possible by the Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences (NSF Grant 0094964, Diana C. Mutz and Arthur Lupia, principle investigators). I am grateful to the following scholars for giving very useful feedback at various stages of the design of this study: Mahzarin Banaji, Michael Dawson, David Ellwood, Don Green, Jim Glaser, Jennifer Hochschild, Vince Hutchings, Shanto Iyengar, Jeff Jenkins, Taeku Lee, Amy Lerman, Rose McDermott, Tali Mendelberg, Katherine Newman, Mark Peffley, Lynn Sanders, John Sides, and Sid Verba. I thank Ethan Haymovitz for creating the morphed images. Thanks to TESS co-PIs Diana Mutz and Arthur Lupia and Knowledge Networks staff for improving the final protocol prior to fielding and for careful execution of the study.

Supplementary material

11109_2010_9152_MOESM1_ESM.docx (427 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 426 kb)

References

  1. Allen, W., Telles, E., & Hunter, M. (2000). Skin color, income, and education: A comparison of African Americans and Mexican Americans. National Journal of Sociology, 12(1), 129–180.Google Scholar
  2. Berinsky, A. J., & Mendelberg, T. (2005). The indirect effects of discredited stereotypes in judgments of Jewish Leaders. American Journal of Political Science, 49(4), 845–864.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bertrand, M., & Mullainathan, S. (2003). Are Emily and Greg more employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A field experiment on labor market discrimination. NBER working paper no. W9873. http://ssrn.com/abstract=428367.
  4. Blair, I., Judd, C., & Chapleau, K. (2004). The influence of afrocentric facial features in criminal sentencing. Psychological Science, 15(10), 674–679.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bowman, P., Muhammad, R., & Ifatunji, M. (2004). Skin tone, class, and racial attitudes among African Americans. In C. Herring, V. Keith, & H. Horton (Eds.), Skin deep: How race and complexion matter in the ‘color-blind’ era (pp. 128–158). Chicago: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  6. Burton, L. M., Bonilla-Silva, E., Ray, V., Buckelew, R., & Freeman, E. H. (2010). Critical race theories, colorism, and the decade’s research on families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72(3), 440–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Butler, D. M., & Broockman, D. E. (2009). Who helps DeShawn register to vote? A field experiment on state legislators. Unpublished paper. https://harrisschool.uchicago.edu/programs/beyond/workshops/ampolpapers/fall09-butler.pdf.
  8. Callaghan, K., & Terkildsen, N. (2002). Understanding the role of race in candidate evaluation. Political Decision Making, Deliberation and Participation, 6, 51–95.Google Scholar
  9. Citrin, J., Green, D. P., & Sears, D. O. (1990). White reactions to black candidates: When does race matter? Public Opinion Quarterly, 54(1), 74–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Colleau, S. M., et al. (1990). Symbolic racism in candidate evaluation: An experiment. Political Behavior, 12(4), 1573–6687.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dasgupta, N., Banaji, M. R., & Abelson, R. P. (1999). Group entitativity and group perception: Associations between physical features and psychological judgment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(5), 991–1003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dixon, T. L., & Maddox, K. B. (2005). Skin tone, crime news, and social reality judgments: Priming the stereotype of the dark and dangerous Black criminal. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 35(8), 1555–1570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Eberhardt, J., Davies, P., Purdie-Vaughns, V., & Johnson, S. (2006). Looking deathworthy: Perceived stereotypicality of Black defendants predicts capital sentencing outcomes. Psychological Science, 17(5), 383–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Eberhardt, J. L., Goff, P. A., Purdie, V. J., & Davies, P. G. (2004). Seeing Black: Race, crime, and visual processing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(6), 876–893.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Figlio, D. N. (2005). Names, Expectations and the Black-White test score gap. NBER working paper series, Vol. w11195.Google Scholar
  16. Friedman, S., Gregory, D. S., & Chris G. (2010). Cybersegregation in Boston and Dallas: Is Neil a more desirable tenant than Tyrone or Jorge? Unpublished paper. http://mumford.albany.edu/mumford/Cybersegregation/friedmansquiresgalvan.May2010.pdf.
  17. Fryer, R. G. Jr., & Levitt, S. (2004). The causes and consequences of distinctively black names. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 119(3), 767–805.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Goldsmith, A. H., Hamilton, D., & Darity, W., Jr. (2007). From dark to light: Skin color and wages among African-Americans. Journal of Human Resources, 42(4), 701–738.Google Scholar
  19. Gyimah-Brempong, K., & Price, G. N. (2006). Crime and punishment: And skin hue too? American Economic Review, 96(2), 246–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Harburg, E., Gleibermann, L., Roeper, P., Anthony Schork, M., & Schull, W. J. (1978). Skin color, ethnicity, and blood pressure I: Detroit Blacks. American Journal of Public Health, 68(12), 1177–1183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Harris, A. P. (2008). From color line to color chart?: Racism and colorism in the new century. Berkeley Journal of African-American Law and Policy, 10(1), 52–69.Google Scholar
  22. Hersch, J. (2006). Skin-tone effects among African Americans: Perceptions and reality. American Economic Review, 96(2), 251–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Highton, B. (2004). White voters and African American candidates for congress. Political Behavior, 26(1), 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hill, M. E. (2000). Color differences in the socioeconomic status of African American men: Results of a longitudinal study. Social Forces, 78(4), 1437–1460.Google Scholar
  25. Hochschild, J., & Weaver, V. (2007). The skin color paradox and the American racial order. Social Forces, 86(2), 643–670.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hollinger, D. A. (2003). Amalgamation and hypodescent: The question of ethnoracial mixture in the history of the United States. American Historical Review, 108(5), 1363–1390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hughes, M., & Hertel, B. (1990). The significance of color remains: A study of life chances, mate selection, and ethnic consciousness among Black Americans. Social Forces, 68(4), 1105–1120.Google Scholar
  28. Hunter, M. (2007). The persistent problem of colorism: Skin tone, status, and inequality. Sociology Compass, 1(1), 237–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hurwitz, J., & Peffley, M. (1997). Public perceptions of race and crime: The role of racial stereotypes. American Journal of Political Science, 41(2), 375–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hutchings, V. L., Hanes W., Jr., & Andrea B. (2005). Heritage or hate? Race, gender, partisanship & the Georgia state flag controversy. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  31. Hutchings, V. L., Valentino, N. A., Philpot, T. S., & White, I. K. (2004). The compassion strategy: Race and the gender gap in campaign 2000. Public Opinion Quarterly, 68(4), 512–541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Iyengar, S. & Kyu, S. H. (2007). Natural disasters in Black and White: How racial cues influenced public response to Hurricane Katrina. Unpublished paper.Google Scholar
  33. Johnson, J. J., Farrell, W. J., & Stoloff, J. (1998). The declining social and economic fortunes of African American males: A critical assessment of four perspectives. Review of Black Political Economy, 25(4), 17–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jones, T. (2000). Shades of Brown: The law of skin color. Duke Law School, public law working paper no. 7. Google Scholar
  35. Jones, C. E., & Clemons, M. L. (1993). A model of racial crossover voting: An assessment of the wilder victory. In G. Persons (Ed.), Dilemmas of black politics: Issues of leadership and strategy. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  36. Jost, J. T., Glaser, J., Kruglanski, A. W., & Sulloway, F. J. (2003). Political conservatism as motivated social cognition. Psychological Bulletin, 129(3), 339–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Keith, V., & Herring, C. (1991). Skin tone and stratification in the Black Community. American Journal of Sociology, 97(3), 760–778.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. King, E. B., Mendoza, S. A., Madera, J. M., Hebl, M. R., & Knight, J. L. (2006). What’s in a name? A multiracial investigation of the role of occupational stereotypes in selection decisions. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 36(5), 1145–1159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. King, G., Tomz, M., & Wittenberg, J. (2000). Making the most of statistical analyses: Improving interpretation and presentation. American Journal of Political Science, 44(2), 347–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Klonoff, E. A., & Landrine, H. (2000). Is skin color a marker for racial discrimination? Explaining the skin color-hypertension relationship. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 23(4), 329–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Krieger, N., Sidney, S., & Coakley, E. (1998). Racial discrimination and skin color in the CARDIA study: Implications for public health research. American Journal of Public Health, 88, 1308–1313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kuklinski, J. H., Cobb, M. D., & Gilens, M. (1997). Racial attitudes and the ‘New South’. Journal of Politics, 59(2), 323–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Leigh, A., & Susilo, T. (2009). Is voting skin-deep? Estimating the effect of candidate ballot photographs on election outcomes. Journal of Economic Psychology, 30(1), 61–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Maddox, K. B., & Gray, S. (2002). Cognitive representations of Black Americans: Reexploring the role of skin tone. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28(2), 250–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Massey, D. S., & Lundy, G. (2001). Use of Black english and racial discrimination in urban housing markets: New methods and findings. Urban Affairs Review, 36, 470–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. McDermott, M. (1998). Race and gender cues in low-information elections. Political Research Quarterly, 51(4), 895–918.Google Scholar
  47. Mendelberg, T. (2008a). Racial priming revived. Perspectives on Politics, 6(1), 109–123.Google Scholar
  48. Mendelberg, T. (2008b). Racial priming: Issues in research design and interpretation. Perspectives on Politics, 6(1), 135–140.Google Scholar
  49. Messing, S., Ethan P., & Maria J. (2009). Bias in the flesh: Attack Ads in the 2008 presidential campaign. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Toronto, Canada.Google Scholar
  50. Moskowitz, D., & Stroh, P. (1994). Psychological sources of electoral racism. Political Psychology, 15(2), 307–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Nance, C. E. (2005). Colorable claims: The continuing significance of color under title VII forty years after its passage. Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, 26, 435–474.Google Scholar
  52. Nosek, B. A., Mahzarin R. B., & John T. J. (2009). The politics of intergroup attitudes. In J.T. Jost, A.C. Kay, & H. Torisdottir (Eds.), The social and psychological bases of ideology and system justification. Oxford: Oxford UP.Google Scholar
  53. Nosek, B., et al. (2007). Pervasiveness and correlates of implicit attitudes and stereotypes. European Review of Social Psychology, 18, 36–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Pratto, F., Stallworth, L. M., & Sidanius, J. (1997). The gender gap: Differences in political attitudes and social dominance orientation. British Journal of Social Psychology, 36, 49–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Reeves, K. (1997). Voting hopes or fears? White voters, Black candidates & racial politics in America. Oxford: Oxford UP.Google Scholar
  56. Ronquillo, J., Denson, T. F., Lickel, B., Zhong-Lin, L., Nandy, A., & Maddox, K. B. (2007). The effects of skin tone on race-related amygdala activity: An fMRI investigation. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2(1), 39–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Schuman, H., Steeh, C., Bobo, L., & Krysan, M. (1997). Racial attitudes in America: Trends and interpretations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP.Google Scholar
  58. Seltzer, R., & Smith, R. (1991). Color differences in the Afro-Am. Community and the differences they make. Journal of Black Studies, 21(3), 279–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sigelman, C. K., Sigelman, L., Walkosz, B. J., & Nitz, M. (1995). Black candidates, White voters: Understanding racial bias in political perceptions. American Journal of Political Science, 39(1), 243–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sniderman, P. M., & Carmines, E. G. (1997). Reaching beyond race. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Strickland, R. A., & Whicker, M. L. (1992). Comparing the wilder and Gantt campaigns: A model for Black candidate success in statewide elections. PS: Political Science and Politics, 25(2), 204–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Terkildsen, N. (1993). When white voters evaluate Black candidates: The processing implications of candidate skin color, prejudice, and self-monitoring. American Journal of Political Science, 37(4), 1032–1053.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. The National Election Studies (www.umich.edu/~nes). THE 2004 NATIONAL ELECTION STUDY [dataset]. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, Center for Political Studies.
  64. Tomz, M., Jason W., & King, G. (2001). Clarify: Software for interpreting and presenting statistical results. Version 2.0 Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. http://gking.harvard.edu.
  65. Uhlmann, E., Dasgupta, N., Elgueta, A., Greenwald, A. G., & Swanson, J. (2002). Subgroup prejudice based on skin color among Hispanics in the United States and Latin America. Social Cognition, 20(3), 198–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wade, T. J., Romano, M., & Blue, L. (2004). The effect of African American skin color on hiring preferences. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 34(12), 2550–2558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Yinger, J. (1995). Closed doors, opportunities lost: The continuing costs of housing discrimination. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Woodrow Wilson Department of PoliticsUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations