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The Trump Effect: An Experimental Investigation of the Emboldening Effect of Racially Inflammatory Elite Communication

  • Benjamin Newman (a1), Jennifer L. Merolla (a1), Sono Shah (a1), Danielle Casarez Lemi (a2), Loren Collingwood (a1) and S. Karthick Ramakrishnan (a1)...

Abstract

This article explores the effect of explicitly racial and inflammatory speech by political elites on mass citizens in a societal context where equality norms are widespread and generally heeded yet a subset of citizens nonetheless possesses deeply ingrained racial prejudices. The authors argue that such speech should have an ‘emboldening effect’ among the prejudiced, particularly where it is not clearly and strongly condemned by other elite political actors. To test this argument, the study focuses on the case of the Trump campaign for president in the United States, and utilizes a survey experiment embedded within an online panel study. The results demonstrate that in the absence of prejudiced elite speech, prejudiced citizens constrain the expression of their prejudice. However, in the presence of prejudiced elite speech – particularly when it is tacitly condoned by other elites – the study finds that the prejudiced are emboldened to both express and act upon their prejudices.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author. E-mail: merolla@ucr.edu

References

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The Trump Effect: An Experimental Investigation of the Emboldening Effect of Racially Inflammatory Elite Communication

  • Benjamin Newman (a1), Jennifer L. Merolla (a1), Sono Shah (a1), Danielle Casarez Lemi (a2), Loren Collingwood (a1) and S. Karthick Ramakrishnan (a1)...

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