Proposal for the 2016 Pilot Study: Fear of Racial Favoritism and Opposition to Black Candidates

Despite the re-election of America’s first African-American president, most white Americans continue to withhold their support from black candidates. According to the conventional wisdom, the primary explanation for white opposition is prejudice—that is, negative feelings, stereotypes, and resentment toward blacks. On the one hand, numerous studies have indeed found that whites with greater racial prejudice were less likely to support Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections (e.g., Pasek et al. 2009; Pasek et al. 2014; Piston 2010). Yet in prior studies of biracial elections, the evidence that prejudice reduced support for black candidates is decidedly mixed (Citrin et al. 1990; Knuckley and Orey 2000; Sears et al. 1997). These inconsistent findings suggest that prejudice alone cannot explain why whites oppose black political leadership.

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