We explore the conjecture that norms of racial rhetoric in US campaigns have shifted over the last several years. Prior work suggests that the way politicians talk about race affects the power of racial attitudes in political judgments. Racial priming theory suggests that explicit racial rhetoric—messages overtly hostile toward minorities—would be rejected. When race is cued subtly, however, the power of racial attitudes on issues is significantly enhanced. Replication attempts have recently failed. We identify two historically related shifts that lead us to expect that the effective distinction between explicit and implicit racial rhetoric has declined in recent years. Four nationally representative survey experiments strongly support our predictions: regardless of whether political messages are racially explicit or implicit, the power of racial attitudes is large and stable. Finally, many citizens recognize racially hostile content in political communications but are no longer angered or disturbed by it.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science