June 1, 2018


Study: You Can Get Whites to Oppose Welfare With This One Weird Trick (Eric Levitz, 6/01/18, New York)

The fact that there has never been a mass constituency in the United States (or any other Western democracy) for financing tax cuts for the rich by scaling back aid to the poor and working class has always been a problem for the conservative movement. But Republicans have long known a nifty trick for overcoming that obstacle to their regressive agenda: Get white Americans focused on their racial fears and resentments, and a lot of them will vote vote against the blacks instead of the plutocrats -- and some will even come to believe that welfare programs don't redistribute resources from the wealthy to working people, but rather, from diligent whites to indolent minorities.

A new study from sociologists at Stanford and UC Berkeley confirms the efficacy of this maneuver. During Barack Obama's first term as president, the share of white Americans who expressed opposition to welfare rose sharply in surveys -- as did the percentage who evinced high levels of racial resentment. To determine if there was a causal relationship between these developments -- which is to say, if racial anxieties (ostensibly triggered by the election of a black president) were turning white Americans against welfare -- the researchers designed a pair of experiments.

In one, they primed white respondents to contemplate the possibility that the United States will become a majority-minority nation within a half-century, by showing them a chart of U.S. demographic change -- and then asked them about their views on welfare programs. In another, they provided respondents with demographic information about which racial groups benefit most from each safety-net program before gauging their support for such policies.

In both cases, the priming increased support for welfare cuts: When whites were encouraged to consider their racial group's declining demographic dominance -- and when they were alerted to the fact that African-Americans disproportionately benefit from certain social welfare programs -- they became more receptive to "small government" conservatism.

Posted by at June 1, 2018 9:17 AM