One explanation for the post-1965 shift in the vote choice of White Americans posits that it was driven by a shift in the racial imagery of the two major parties. The growing role of Latinos in the Democratic Party has brought new changes in the racial groups associated with the parties. In this paper, I explore whether the increasing attention to Latinos in Democratic Party politics is having an effect similar to that which followed African-Americans political repositioning 50 years ago, and decreasing support for the Party among White Democrats. Drawing on three survey experiments, from two elections, I demonstrate that as White Democrats learn about Democratic outreach to Latinos, they become less supportive of Democrats. This pattern, I find, is driven by the effects that such information has on the racial prototypes associated with each party. All together, these findings point to a new phase of racial realignment in the American political system.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
This includes leaners.
In his work on the evolution of this partisan realignment, Schicker (2016) draws attention to how longtime New York Times Washington bureau chief Arthur Krock repeatedly discussed the significance of these changes (see, e.g., New York Times, August 9, 1936, p. E3; October 13, 1936, p. 18; September 7, 1938, p. 24; September 11, 1938, p. 77; November 6, 1938, p. 77). Additionally, the widely-read syndicated columnist Frank Kent also drew attention to these dynamics (see, e.g., “The Great Game of Politics: A Solid Black Belt?” Wall Street Journal, June 30, 1938).
There are many examples of political advertising on traditionally English-language networks that included Spanish-language content, including the frequently referenced George P. Bush ad in 1988 (Connaughton and Jarvis 2004). In addition to campaign advertisements, there are a growing number of bilingual voter engagement public service announcements (e.g. Voto Latino n.d.). Often referred to as “crossover advertising,” this pattern has received a fair amount of attention in the realm of commercial advertising but limited attention in the context of political advertising (Castañeda Paredes 2001).
Only 11 respondents were pure independents/not leaners, and therefore were not included in the analyses.
Please rate your feeling towards Barack Obama. Is your overall impression of him…(1) Favorable; (2) Somewhat Favorable; (3) Neither favorable nor unfavorable; (4) Somewhat unfavorable; (5) Unfavorable.” Coded on a scale ranging from zero to one with higher values corresponding to more favorable attitudes.
“Do you think the ad you watched was targeted toward a specific group of voters, such as a specific region, ethnic group or age group?” If respondents answered yes, they were then asked in an open-ended format, “which group of voters do you think the ad was targeting?” Responses that referenced Hispanics, Latinos, Mexicans, Mexican-Americans or Spanish-speaking individuals were all coded as 1. All other responses were coded as 0.
Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, while more representative than student convenience samples, is less representative than national probability samples (see Online Appendix 3 for demographics across the samples). In particular, Mechanical Turk samples tend to underrepresent low education, older, conservative, republican and non-White respondents (Berinsky et al. 2012). However, since I was only interested in White Democrat respondents in this study, the racial and partisan skew was not an issue in this study. Further any liberal bias in this sample should work against my proposed hypothesis. Nonetheless, it is due to the limitations of any given sample that I replicated the findings in this study two times, using three different survey firms and three different samples.
“As a whole, is the layout well balanced—or does it feel cluttered or otherwise imbalanced?”.
“Do the image and title of the featured story support one another in a way that gives you a clear sense of what the story is about?”.
“Do the visuals (including text and photos) appear clear and of high quality—or do they look like they are of poor quality?”.
“Which party’s presidential nominee was featured on the webpage you saw at the beginning of the survey? (1) The Democratic Party Nominee; (2) The Republican Party Nominee; (3) Someone else.
“Some of the featured stories focused on presidential candidates at events targeting certain groups of voters. Can you recall which group of voters, if any, the candidate seemed to be trying to appeal to in the image you saw? (1) Latinos/Hispanics; (2) Undecided voters; (3) Voters in Iowa; (4) General audience/It was not clear from the image. Order of response options was randomized.
“Do you have a favorable or unfavorable view of the following people: Hillary Clinton?” (1) Very favorable; (2) Somewhat favorable; (3) Somewhat unfavorable; (4) Very unfavorable; (5) Don’t know (excluded from analyses). Coded on a scale from zero to one with higher values indicating higher levels of favorability for Hillary Clinton.
“Would you consider voting for Hillary Clinton?” (1)I plan on voting for Hillary Clinton; (2) Might consider voting for her; (3) Would never vote for her; (4) Probably won’t vote (excluded from analysis). Coded on a scale from zero to one with higher values indicating a greater likelihood of voting for Hillary Clinton.
“If the 2016 presidential election were being held today and the candidates were Hillary Clinton, the Democrat, Donald Trump, the Republican, Gary Johson, the Libertarian, and Jill Stein, from the Green Party, who would you vote for?. (1) Hillary Clinton; (2) Donald Trump; (3) Gary Johnson; (4) Jill Stein”. Order of response options was randomized.
“How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘If they increase in status, racial minorities are likely to reduce the influence of White Americans in society.’ 7-point response scale ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree.
Scale created using two items: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements: (1) "Irish, Italians, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Hispanics should do the same without any special favors; (2) "Discrimination has created conditions that make it difficult for Hispanics to work their way out of the lower class." Response options were measured on a 5-point response scale ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree.
Association between Latinos and Democrats: “Generally speaking, which partisan group do you typically associate the following social groups with: Hispanics/Latinos… (1) Only the Republican Party (2) Mostly the Republican Party; (3) Both Parties about equally; (4) Most the Democratic Party; (5) Only the Democratic Party.
Association between Whites and Republicans: “How much do you think each political party represents people like you? Do you think they represent people like you extremely well, pretty well, a little bit, not very well, or not at all: Republicans”. Five-point response scale ranging from “represent people like me extremely well” to “do not represent people like me at all”.
It is certainly reasonable to wonder whether the critiques of this scale—both in general and as a measure of attitudes toward groups other than Blacks—weakens its ability to detect a mediating role of racial resentment toward Latinos. This limitation highlights the need for additional research on the best way to measure racial resentment toward Latinos.
Abrajano, M. (2010). Campaigning to the new American electorate: Advertising to Latino voters. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
Abrajano, M., & Hajnal, Z. (2015). White backlash: Immigration, race and American politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Abramowitz, A. I. (1994). Issue evolution reconsidered: Racial attitudes and partisanship in the US electorate. American Journal of Political Science, 38(1), 1–24.
Abramowitz, A. (2013). The polarized public? Why American government is so dysfunctional. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Abramowitz, A. (2014). January 20. How race and religion have polarized American voters. The Washington Post. Retrieved March 24, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2014/01/20/how-race-and-religion-have-polarized-american-voters/?utm_term=.2a7359463965.
Alesina, A., & Glaeser, E. (2004). Fighting poverty in the US and Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Barreto, M., Collingwood, L., & Manzano, S. (2010). Measuring Latino political influence in national elections. Political Research Quarterly, 63, 4.
Barreto, M., & Segura, G. M. (2014). Latino America: How America’s most dynamic population is poised to transform the politics of the nation. Philadelphia: Public Affairs.
Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1173–1182.
Berinsky, A., Huber, G. A., & Lenz, G. S. (2012). Evaluating online labor markets for experimental research: Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk. Political Analysis, 20, 351–368.
Black, E., & Black, M. (2002). The rise of Southern Republicans. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Blake, A., & Johnson, J. (2016). September 1. Hispanic supporters flee Donald Trump’s campaign after fiery immigration speech. The Washington Post. Retrieved March 24, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/09/01/hispanic-supporters-flee-donald-trumps-campaign-after-fiery-immigration-speech/?utm_term=.da4833f1caa9.
Bobo, L., & Hutchings, V. (1996). Perceptions of racial group competition: Extending Blumer’s theory of group position to a multiracial social context. American Sociological Review., 61(6), 951–972.
Bowler, S., Nicholson, S. P., & Segura, G. M. (2006). Earthquakes and aftershocks: Race, direct democracy, and partisan change. American Journal of Political Science, 50(1), 146–159.
Burlij, T. (Producer). (2012). October 2. PBS Newshour [Television broadcast]. Arlington, VA: Public Broadcasting Service.
Campbell, A., Converse, P. E., Miller, W. E., & Stokes, D. E. (1960). The American voter. New York: Wiley.
Carmines, E., & Stimson, J. (1989). Issue evolution: Race and the transformation of American politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Carrasquillo, A. (2016). Clinton Latino operation, going beyond Obama in’12, readies Trump battle plan. BuzzFeedNews, August 25. Retrieved March 31 2017, from https://www.buzzfeed.com/adriancarrasquillo/clinton-latino-operation-going-beyond-obama-in-12-readies-fi?utm_term=.owWxkxZpB#.qt1eweWD2.
Castañeda Paredes, M. (2001). The reorganization of Spanish-language media marketing in the United States. In V. Mosco & D. Schiller (Eds.), Continental order? (pp. 120–134). Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.
Chang, L., & Krosnick, J. (2009). National surveys via RDD telephone interviewing versus the internet. Public Opinion Quarterly, 73(4), 641–678.
Colby, S., & Ortman, J. (2015). Projections of the size and composition of the U.S. population: 2014 to 2060. Current Population Reports, P25-1143. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
Collins, E. (2016). August 31. Trump relying on RNC for hispanic outreach. USA Today. Retrieved March 24, 2017, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/08/30/trump-hispanic-outreach-republican-national-committee/89597106/.
Connaughton, S. L., & Jarvis, S. E. (2004). Invitations for partisan identification: Attempts to court Latino voters through televised Latino-oriented political advertisements, 1984–2000. Journal of Communication, 54(1), 38–54.
Conover, P., & Feldman, S. (1981). The origins and meaning of liberal/conservative self-identifications. American Journal of Political Science, 25(4), 617–645.
Converse, P. (1964). The nature of belief systems in mass publics. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.
Corasanti, N. (2016). New hillary Clinton ads look to expand lead with hispanic voters. New York Times, October 1. Retrieved July 13, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/02/us/politics/new-hillary-clinton-ads-look-to-expand-lead-with-hispanic-voters.html?_r = 0.
Craig, M., & Richeson, J. (2014). On the precipice of a ‘Majority-Minority’ America: Perceived status threat from the racial demographic shift affects White Americans’ political ideology. Psychological Science, 25(6), 1189–1197.
Cramer, K. (2016). The politics of resentment. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Dávila, A. (2008). Latino spin: Public image and the whitewashing of race. New York: New York University Press.
Deruy, E. (2012). Spanish-language political ad money just a drop in the bucket. ABC News, November 16. Retrieved July 13, 2017, from http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/Politics/obama-camp-spent-spanish-language-ads/story?id=17741497.
Edsall, T., & Edsall, M. (1991). Chain reaction. New York: W. W. Norton.
Feldman, S., & Huddy, L. (2005). Racial resentment and white opposition to race-concious programs: Principles or prejudice? American Journal of Political Science, 49(1), 168–183.
Fraga, L., Garcia, J., Hero, R., Jones-Correa, M., Martinez-Ebers, V., & Segura, G. (2011). Latinos in the new millenium: An almanac of opinion, behavior and policy preferences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Frizell, S. (2016) September 15. The Puerto rican wave that could boost hillary Clinton in Florida. Time. Retrieved March 24, 2017, from http://time.com/4493464/hillary-clinton-florida-latino-hispanic-donald-trump/.
Gobry, P-E. (2016). How identity politics blew up in democrats’ faces. The Week, November 16. Retrieved July 13, 2017, from http://theweek.com/articles/662063/how-identity-politics-blew-democrats-faces.
Gomez, S. (2016). Hillary Clinton sets her sights on latino voters along Florida’s critical I-4 corridor. Fox News, August 8. Retrieved July 13, 2017, from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/08/08/hillary-clinton-sets-her-sights-on-latino-voters-along-critical-4-corridor.html.
Green, D., Palmquist, B., & Schickler, E. (2002). Partisan hearts and minds: Political parties and the social identities of voters. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Hajnal, Z., & Rivera, M. U. (2014). Immigration, Latinos, and white partisan politics: The new democratic defection. American Journal of Political Science, 58(4), 773–789.
Handler, M. S. (1964). Negroes, a major factor in Johnson Victory, viewed as abandoning the G.O.P.: 90% said to vote for democrats. The New York Times, 33.
Hogg, M., & Turner, J. (1987). Intergroup behaviour, self-stereotyping and the salience of social categories. British Journal of Social Psychology, 26, 325–340.
Hood, M. V., III, Kidd, Q., & Morris, I. L. (2004). A report on the reintroduction of the Elephas maximus in the Southern United States: explaining the rise of republican state parties, 1960–2000. American Politics Research, 32, 68–101.
Hopkins, D., Tran, V., & Williamson, A. F. (2014). See no Spanish: Language, local context and immigration. Politics, Groups and Identities, 2(1), 35–51.
Jardina, A. E. (2014). Demise of dominance: Group threat and the new relevance of White identity for American politics. PhD dissertation, University of Michigan.
Kinder, D. R., & Dale-Riddle, A. (2012). The end of race? Obama, 2008, and racial politics in America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Kinder, D. R., & Mendelberg, T. (2000). Individualism reconsidered: Principles and prejudice in contemporary American public opinion on race. In D. Sears, J. Sidanius, & L. Bobo (Eds.), Racialized politics: Values, ideology, and prejudice in American public opinion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Kinder, D. R., & Sanders, L. M. (1996). Divided by color: Racial politics and democratic ideals. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Kinket, B., & Verkuyten, M. (1997). Levels of ethnic self-identification and social context. Social Psychology Quarterly, 12(1), 338–354.
Kraushaar, J. (2015). Democrats have an identity-politics problem. The Atlantic, April 7. Retrieved March 31 2017, from https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/04/democrats-have-an-identity-politics-problem/448776/.
Lazarsfeld, P., Berelson, B., & Gaudet, H. (1944). The people’s choice: How the voter makes up his mind in a presidential election. New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce.
Lilla, M. (2016). The end of identity liberalism. The New York Times, November 18. Retrieved March 31, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/opinion/sunday/the-end-of-identity-liberalism.html.
Lopez, M. H., Gonzalez-Barrera, A, Krogstad, J. M., & López, G. (2016). Democrats maintain edge as party ‘More Concerned’ for Latinos, but views similar to 2012. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from http://www.pewhispanic.org/2016/10/11/latinos-and-the-political-parties/.
Lublin, D. (2004). The republican south: democratization and partisan change. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Mac Donald, H. (2012). Why hispanics don’t vote for republicans. National Review, November 7. Retrieved July 13, 2017, from http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/332916/why-hispanics-dont-vote-republicans-heather-mac-donald.
McAdam, D., & Kloos, K. (1992). Deeply divided: racial politics and social movements in post-war America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
National Association of Latino Elected Officials. (2014). National directory of Latino elected officials, 2014. Los Angeles, CA: NALEO Educational Fund.
NBC News Election Unit. (2014). Latinos cooling on Obama, but still vote democratic. NBC News, November 4. Retrieved March 31, 2017, from http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/latinos-cooling-obama-still-vote-democratic.
Newman, B. J., Hartman, T. K., & Taber, C. S. (2012). Foreign language exposure, cultural threat, and opposition to immigration. Political Psychology, 33(5), 635–657.
Nuño, S. (2016). Can Latino vote help end GOP reign in Arizona?. NBC News, October 24. Retrieved March 13, 2017, from http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/can-latino-vote-help-end-gop-reign-arizona-n671896.
Olsen-Phillips, P. (2014). Who’s buying ads on Spanish-LANGUAGE TV—and who’s not. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from https://sunlightfoundation.com/2014/07/18/whos-buying-on-spanish-language-tv-and-whos-not/.
Osborne, D., Sears, D. O., & Valentino, N. A. (2011). The end of the solidly democratic South: The impressionable-years hypothesis. Political Psychology, 32(1), 81–108.
Outten, H. R., Schmitt, M., Miller, D., & Garcia, A. (2012). Feeling threatened about the future: Whites’ emotional reactions to anticipated ethnic demographic changes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(1), 14–25.
Phillip, A., & O’Keefe, E. (2016). Among democrats, deep concern about clinton’s hispanic strategy. The Washington Post, September 16. Retrieved March 17, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/among-democrats-deep-concern-about-clintons-hispanic-strategy/2016/09/18/38d3b99a-7c54-11e6-bd86-b7bbd53d2b5d_story.html?utm_term = .ca6d3109078b.
Rosenberg, M. (1979). Conceiving the self. New York: Basic Books.
Schickler, E. (2016). Racial realignment: The transformation of American liberalism, 1932–1965. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Schildkraut, D. (2015). White attitudes about descriptive representation in the US: The roles of identity, discrimination and linked fate. Politics, Groups and Identities., 5(1), 84–106.
Segal, A. (2002). Records broken: Spanish-language television advertising in the 2002 election. Johns Hopkins Journal of American Politics online, http://www.jhu.edu/advanced/government/hvp/HVPFinalReport2002.pdf.
Segal, A. (2004). Bikini politics: The 2004 presidential campaigns’ Hispanic media efforts cover only the essential parts of the body politic: A select group of voters in a few battle ground states. Report issued by the Hispanic Voter Project, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.
Shafer, B. E., & Johnston, R. (2006). The end of Southern exceptionalism: Class, race, and partisan change in the postwar south. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Sniderman, P., & Carmines, E. (1997). Reaching beyond race. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Soroka, S., Johnston, R., Kevins, A., Banting, K., & Kymlicka, W. (2016). Migration and welfare state spending. European Political Science Review, 8(2), 173–194.
Soto, V. M. D. F., & Merolla, J. L. (2008). Vota por tu futuro: Partisan mobilization of Latino voters in the 2000 presidential election. Political Behavior, 28(4), 285–304.
The American National Election Studies. (2012). Distributed by Stanford University and the University of Michigan.
Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup behaviour. In S. Worchel & W. G. Austin (Eds.), Psychology of intergroup relations (pp. 7–24). Chicago: Nelson-Hall.
Terry, D., & Hogg, T. (1996). Group norms and the attitude-behavior relationship: A role for group identification. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22(8), 776–793.
Tesler, M. (2012). The spillover of racialization into health care: How president Obama polarized public opinion by racial attitudes and race. American Journal of Political Science, 56(3), 690–704.
Torres, J., & Josh, S. (2012). Missing out: Political ads, Spanish-language TV and the Latino vote. Retrieved March 15, 2017, from http://www.freepress.net/sites/default/files/resources/Missing_Out_files_final_copy_11.2.12.pdf.
Turner, J., Hogg, M., Oakes, P. J., Reicher, S., & Wetherell, M. (1987). Rediscovering the social group: A self-categorization theory. New York: Basil Blackwell.
Valentino, N., & Neuner, F. (2017). Why the sky didn’t fall: Mobilizig anger in response to voter ID laws. Political Psychology, 38(2), 331–350.
Valentino, N., & Sears, D. (2005). Old times there are not forgotten: Race and partisan realignment in the contemporary South. American Journal of Political Science, 49(3), 672–688.
I express my deepest thanks to Bernard Fraga, Eric Gonzalez Juenke, Tony Carey, Leonie Huddy, Nick Valentino, Vincent Hutchings, Matt Levendusky, and Diana Mutz for offering candid and constructive advice on this project. I am also indebted to Ronald Jordan, Jr., Gloria Rolón-Jordan and Zaida Rolón for useful insights on this paper and invaluable support. Finally, I thank the Center for the Study on Citizens and Politics at the University of Pennsylvania for the financial support to perform the first experiment. The data and code to replicate the results reported in this paper can be found in the Political Behavior data archive in Dataverse.
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
Cite this article
Ostfeld, M.C. The New White Flight?: The Effects of Political Appeals to Latinos on White Democrats. Polit Behav 41, 561–582 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-018-9462-8