The Activation of Prejudice and Presidential Voting: Panel Evidence from the 2016 U.S. Election
Divisions between Whites and Blacks have long influenced voting. Yet given America’s growing Latino population, will Whites’ attitudes toward Blacks continue to predict their voting behavior? Might anti-Latino prejudice join or supplant them? These questions took on newfound importance after the 2016 campaign, in which the Republican candidate’s rhetoric targeted immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere. We examine the relationship between Whites’ prejudices, immigration attitudes, and voting behavior using a population-based panel spanning 9 years. Donald Trump’s candidacy activated anti-Black but not anti-Latino prejudice, while other GOP candidates had no such effect. This and other evidence suggests that Whites’ prejudice against Blacks is potentially activated even when salient political rhetoric does not target them exclusively. These results shed light on the continued political impact of anti-Black prejudice while deepening our understanding of the mobilization of prejudice and the associated psychological mechanisms.
Keywords2016 election Voting behavior Activation Donald Trump Racial prejudice
This paper previously circulated under the title “Prejudice, Priming, and Presidential Voting: Panel Evidence from the 2016 U.S. Election.” The author gratefully acknowledges helpful feedback or advice from Phil Jones, Michael Jones-Correa, Zoltan Hajnal, Mirya Holman, Leonie Huddy, Cheryl Kaiser, Thomas Leeper, Yph Lelkes, Matt Levendusky, Helen Marrow, Marc Meredith, Diana Mutz, Fabian Neuner, Efrén Pérez, John Sides, and Paul Sniderman as well as seminar participants at Arizona State University’s 2017 Kopf Conference “Diverse Perspectives toward Immigration and Ethnic/Racial Minorities,” the Rubin Lecture Series at the University of Michigan, the Mershon Center’s 2016 Presidential Election Conference at The Ohio State University, and seminars at George Washington, Princeton Universities and ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich. David Azizi, Tiger Brown, Isaiah Gaines, Sydney Loh, Thomas Munson, and Samantha Washington provided insightful research assistance. The survey described herein was reviewed by the University of Pennsylvania Institutional Review Board (824036). This research was supported by a Russell Sage Foundation Grant (Award 94-17-01).
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