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Political behavior


Black Politics









McLaren, Leann & Zoe Walker. (2024). By Any Means Necessary? How Black and White Americans Evaluate Protest Tactics in Response to a Police Killing. Journal of Race, Ethnicity and


Abstract: The majority of protests in support of racial justice are peaceful. However, since the racial reckoning of 2020, there has been debate about when and how exposure to violent or disruptive protest activities can shift public opinion towards a social movement. Using the Black Lives Matter Movement as a lens, we design a survey experiment to test the causal effects of different protest tactics on support for protesters and the movement itself among Black and white Americans. We include a control condition with no protest and manipulate the level of disruption in each treatment condition, ranging from a simple march in response to the police killing of an unarmed Black man to a protest in which participants set fire to an empty police headquarters. We use OLS regressions to estimate average treatment effects across conditions. Overall, we find that both Blacks and whites react negatively to more disruptive protests but whites tend to react more negatively than Blacks. Conversely, we also find that whites overall report more confidence in the ability of Black Lives Matter to facilitate racial equality after exposure to a protest, even when that protest employs disruptive tactics. We also test for the moderating effects of racial identity among Black respondents and racial attitudes among white respondents. We conclude by discussing the implications of our findings for the broader literature on social movements and public opinion. 


Hudgins, Kamri, Erykah Benson, Sydney Carr, Jasmine Simington, Zoe Walker, Jessica Cruz, Vincent Hutchings, Earl Lewis, Mara Cecila Ostfeld and Alford Young Jr. (2024). Crafting Democratic Futures: Understanding Political Conditions and Racialized Attitudes toward Black Reparations in the United States of America. RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences. DOI: 10.7758/RSF.2024.10.3.03


Abstract: As a growing number of states and municipalities across the country consider reparative policies for Black Americans, it is important to understand what shapes support for and opposition to these policies. In this paper, we explore the role that awareness of racial inequality plays in shaping attitudes toward reparations. Drawing on data from a large, representative survey experiment in Detroit and one national survey experiment, we find that awareness of racial inequality plays a powerful role in the likelihood of supporting reparative policies. Yet, in follow-up survey experiments, we find that exposing respondents to information on the rationale for and importance of reparations does not shift public support. These findings suggest that it is the awareness of racial inequality that is cultivated over time, through either lived experience or proximity to those most impacted and that is likely reinforced by multiple institutions that appear to be the dominant force in building support for reparations. These findings are particularly important during a time when many school districts are severely restricting access to information about the history of Black Americans.


Walker, Zoe (2024). "How do Americans react to the racial wealth gap?" Institute for Social Research (Blog Post). 

This post summarizes findings from several national survey experiments testing the effects of exposure to information about the racial wealth gap on  public support for re-distributive economic policies. I describe these studies and discuss the policy implications of our findings.

My research broadly considers how (mis)perceptions of race, opportunity and inequality sculpt American politics. My approach to studying public opinion is multi-methodological, incorporating causal inference and survey experiments as well as text analysis, focus groups and qualitative interviews.



Angry White Parents: How Race and Emotions Mobilize Participation in Local School Board Politics (with Hilary Izatt and Francy Luna-Diaz).


Abstract: What motivates white Americans to participate in school board politics when race is on the agenda?  In this paper, we show that whites' propensity to participate in school board politics is partially motivated by anger about the possibility of school children learning that America is not colorblind. Using two novel survey experiments, we find white respondents become angry when they learn a public school will use a textbook that describes structural racism as the cause of Black-white inequality. As anger increases among whites, so too does their likelihood of expressing intent to participate in their local school board meetings. Moreover, the angriest whites are more likely to donate their survey reward to an organization that lobbies for changes in school curricula. We further find anger increases the propensity to participate more than other negative emotions like shame and fear. These results are robust to multiple sensitivity analyses and hold for both white Democrats and white Republicans. Our findings underscore how angry reactions  to threats to colorblind ideology can mobilize whites across party lines.



If They Only Knew: Informing Blacks and Whites About the Racial Wealth Gap (with Vincent Hutchings, Kamri Hudgins and Sydney Carr).

Summary: Even after the George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020, most White Americans continue to oppose racially liberal policies. Similarly, Black support for racially redistributive policies is often less than monolithic.  Would support for policies to eradicate racial inequality increase if common misperceptions held by White and Black Americans about racial inequality were corrected? We examine this question with two survey experiments fielded online by CloudResearch that focus on the racial wealth gap.  Study 1 (N=1,908) was fielded at the height of the George Floyd demonstrations in June of 2020. Subjects were randomly assigned either to a control condition, where they were merely provided a definition of the racial wealth gap, or to one of two treatment conditions that provided textual and visual information on the current size of the Black/White racial wealth gap based on information from the Survey of Consumer Finances.  In general, we find that the treatment conditions do increase information levels on the presence and perceived size of the racial wealth gap, although mostly for Whites, but they typically do not increase support for racially redistributive policies.  In a second experiment, fielded in March of 2021, we sought to replicate the results of the 2020 experiment and add two additional treatment conditions highlighting the fact that the median household headed by a Black college graduate has about the same amount of wealth as the median household headed by a White high school dropout. This Study 2 experiment represents an even stronger test of the hypothesis that public support for racially egalitarian policies would increase if Americans only knew the truth. Again, we find (at least among Whites) that our treatments do inform participants about the size of the racial wealth gap.  However, we find little evidence of increased policy support and some unanticipated evidence of a backlash effect among White liberals. We discuss the implications of our findings for the prospects of racial reconciliation in our conclusion.

 Pre-Analysis Plan 


What You Don’t Know Can Still Hurt You: Correcting Black Misperceptions  about the Racial Wealth Gap (with Vincent Hutchings, Kamri Hudgins and Sydney Carr).


SummaryIn the wake of the 2020 protests for racial justice, renewed attention has been focused on persistent levels of inequality between Blacks and Whites. Arguably, the most staggering measure of inequality is the racial wealth gap.  Previous scholarship has shown that African Americans are generally misinformed about the magnitude of this economic divide. However, researchers know very little about whether informing Blacks about this phenomenon would dispel these misperceptions and induce greater support for policies designed to reduce or eliminate it. Additionally, little is known about the demographic and attitudinal moderators that might facilitate African American receptiveness to corrective information about the racial wealth gap. In this paper, we examine these questions with three online survey experiments and information gleaned from focus groups regarding what Blacks know about the racial wealth gap, whether their misperceptions can be corrected, and whether exposure to accurate information about this gap leads to greater support for either race-targeted or race-neutral policy remedies. Across each of our studies, we find some limited evidence that misperceptions can be dispelled, but almost no indication that such interventions lead to greater support for remedial policies.  We explore whether study participants fully comprehend the crippling implications of the racial wealth gap. We also find some evidence that subsets within the Black community are more receptive to corrective information than are others, with consistent evidence in Study 3 that Black college graduates respond to our treatments.  

Pre-Analysis Plan 

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