Political Behavior

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 255–275 | Cite as

Racial Resentment and Whites’ Gun Policy Preferences in Contemporary America

  • Alexandra FilindraEmail author
  • Noah J. Kaplan
Original Paper


Our study investigates how and why racial prejudice can fuel white opposition to gun restrictions. Drawing on research across disciplines, we suggest that the language of individual freedom used by the gun rights movement utilizes the same racially meaningful tropes as the rhetoric of the white resistance to black civil rights that developed after WWII and into the 1970s. This indicates that the gun rights narrative is color-coded and evocative of racial resentment. To determine whether racial prejudice depresses white support for gun control, we designed a priming experiment which exposed respondents to pictures of blacks and whites drawn from the IAT. Results show that exposure to the prime suppressed support for gun control compared to the control, conditional upon a respondent’s level of racial resentment. Analyses of ANES data (2004–2013) reaffirm these findings. Racial resentment is a statistically significant and substantively important predictor of white opposition to gun control.


Racial resentment Symbolic racism Prejudice Gun control Public policy Public opinion 



The authors would like to thank Kate Boulay, Michelle Boyd, Jennifer Carlson, Steven Corey, Amanda D’Urso, Deborah Holdstein, Richard Johnson, Lisa Miller, Dionyssis Mintzopoulos, Michael L. Owens, Davin Phoenix, Beth Richie, Linda Skitka, Vesla Weaver, Dick Winters, Cara Wong, and the four anonymous reviewers for valuable comments and suggestions. This work was supported with grants from the Political Science Department, the Office of Social Science Research (OSSR) and the Chancellor’s Discovery Grant program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Dick Simpson also provided generous financial support from his grant and we would like to thank him for that. Dr. Filindra benefited greatly from a fellowship by the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy also at UIC. We also want to thank the American Political Science Association’s Public Policy Section who awarded a version of this article with the best paper award for 2014.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 117 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA

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