In a recent study published by the Social Science Research Network, several scientists examined the effect that racial bias has on strengthening conservative support. In this specific study, a picture of President Obama was edited to darken his skin. As a result, they discovered that the photo with a darker president influenced more white people to support the Tea Party movement.
Robb Willer of Stanford University, Matthew Feinberg of the University of Toronto, and Rachel Wetts of UC Berkeley, performed the study. In the abstract, the scientists examined the overwhelming fear that having a non-white president contributes to the national “decline of whiteness.” Because minorities are swiftly becoming the majority, many white Americans feel a threat to their natural social order.
As a way to illustrate this, Willer and his colleagues performed a study wherein a photo of the president was digitally darkened. The white participants, who were shown the darker Obama, were proven to be more likely to claim they support the Tea Party. This should come as no surprise since many of the ‘nationalist’ ideas of the Tea Party seem to be deeply rooted in racism. The movement itself has transitioned from a strictly economic idea to a ‘Take Our Country Back’ organization. And as many of us know, when someone uses that phrase, they really mean get rid of all the immigrants and people who don’t have blonde hair.
This information is extremely interesting because it speaks to many of the tactics used by conservatives during Obama’s campaigns. Several anti-Obama ads appeared to a show a darker Obama in the images, in comparison to a light McCain or Romney. Although this may not come as a surprise, it is still interesting to know how deeply rooted race is in American politics.
Check out the image used in the experiment below:
(Photo: Pete Souza)
(Photos from left: Pete Souza, Robb Willer/Stanford University)
(Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)