Racial Politics

I have an interest in group psychology and racial politics that is reflected in several research projects. First, there is my book with James Glaser, which has its own page. In addition, there are a number of articles in various stages of development.

What does it Take to Reduce Racial Prejudice in Individual-Level Candidate Evaluations? A Formal Theoretic Perspective

Arthur Lupia, Logan S. Casey, Kristyn L. Karl, Spencer Piston, Timothy J. Ryan, and Christopher Skovron

Political Science Research and Methods Vol. 3(1): 1-20.

Anti-black prejudice affects how some citizens evaluate black candidates. What does it take to reduce the role of prejudice in these evaluations? Using logical implications of relevant psychological phenomena, this article shows that repeated exposure to counter-stereotypical information is insufficient to reduce evaluative prejudice. Instead, citizens must associate this prejudice with adverse effects for themselves in contexts that induce them to rethink their existing racial beliefs. These findings explain important disagreements in empirical prejudice research, as only some empirical research designs supply the conditions for prejudice reduction predicted here. This study also clarifies why similarly situated citizens react so differently to counter-stereotypical information. In sum, we find that prejudice change is possible, but in a far narrower set of circumstances than many scholars claim.


Prejudice and Politics Re-Examined: The Political Significance of Implicit Racial Bias

Donald R. Kinder and Timothy J. Ryan

As part of a general inquiry into mental mechanisms that operate outside conscious awareness, experimental psychology has recently established the presence and importance of “implicit attitudes.” The purpose of our paper is to assess the significance of implicit attitudes for the study of politics, focusing in particular on prejudice and its consequences. Relying on a national survey of the American electorate that administered an Implicit Association Test, by far the most prominent measure of implicit attitudes in general and implicit prejudice in particular, as well as a standard measure of explicit prejudice, we provide a systematic comparison of prejudice’s political effects: for the candidates Americans choose, the assessments they make of government performance, the policies they favor, and the misinformation they believe. We find that implicit and explicit prejudice provide radically different pictures of racial politics in America.

Manuscript PDF

When Are Stereotypes about Black Candidates Applied? An Experimental Test

Kristyn L. Karl and Timothy J. Ryan

Past research shows that candidates’ racial identities influence the assumptions that voters draw about how they will behave in office. In a national survey experiment, we find evidence that such stereotypes differ both in their potency and how vulnerable they are to disconfirmation. Black candidates are assumed to be more liberal than white ones, although the effect is notably small. When it comes to more specific stereotypes—how black candidates will behave on individual issues—effects are not only much larger, but also more contingent on what other information is readily available. In particular, we find that by providing a small bit of ideological information, black candidates can surmount the assumption that they will enact liberal policies as concerns taxation and non-racialized aspects of social welfare policy. But it is much more difficult for them to overturn the (racialized) assumption that they will prioritize aid to minorities while in office.

Manuscript PDF

The Elasticity of Aversion to Conflicts in Foreign Interventions

Timothy J. Ryan and Matthew Wells

One of the better established patterns in the study of war is that democracies have difficulty maintaining popular support for foreign interventions in the face of casualties. However, different conflicts give rise to different kinds of casualties. They can come from the intervening home force, from a coalition partner, or from the local population. Matthew Wells and I are examining the extent to which support for intervention depends on who the casualties are. In an experiment, we examine how media reports of conflict casualties affect support for foreign conflict. We assess the idea that American citizens respond different to graphically presented American deaths to graphically presented indigenous deaths.