So, mentioned earlier that I was on a panel at MPSA last week with a terrific paper that did a very thorough and compelling job at looking at how racial attitudes influence the political perceptions of Tea Party supporters. I told the lead author, David Perkins, I wanted to blog about it here and he said that I should just be sure to mention that it is still a draft and has not undergone peer review yet. Though, I’ll go ahead and say that I’m a peer and if I were reviewing this for most journals, I’d recommend it be accepted for publication.
Anyway, what the paper does is compare how race influences seemingly unrelated political attitudes among those who support the Tea party versus those who do not support the Tea Party. Perkins takes advantage of a panel that spans 2008 and 2009 to find that people who later professed support for Tea Party (obviously did not exist in 2008) had their racial views significantly affect their views about the deficit under Obama, but under President Bush, their views on race did not affect their views on the deficit at all. He also finds that being a Tea Party supporter leads to racial views having a strong effect on various attitudes towards Obama whereas these racial views do not have an effect for non-TP persons.
The really convincing kicker, though, is an experiment in which a hypothetical program for providing relief for foreclosed homeowners is paired with a photo of a white man vs. paired with a photo of a Black man.
To be clear, this was an experiment and half the sample got the top photo and half got the bottom photo. And the results?
You guessed it. For Tea Partiers, the race of the person in the photo significantly influenced their support for the mortgage program. Non Tea Partiers– no significant effect. Pretty damning of the Tea Party, honestly. That said, Perkins makes every effort to be fair in the paper, and rather than cherry-picking all significant results mentions a number of political attitudes where Tea Partiers views on race do not seem to have an influence.
That said, the overall conclusion is fairly clear. No, not all Tea Partiers are racist, but certainly Tea Partiers overall political views are much more shaped by race (in particular, racial resentment towards Blacks) than the political views of other Americans.