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The Dynamics of Racial Resentment across the 50 US States

  • Candis Watts Smith, Rebecca J. Kreitzer and Feiya Suo


Although many scholars who study the role of racial animus in Americans’ political attitudes and policy preferences do so to help us understand national-level politics, (racialized) policy is largely shaped at the state level. States are laboratories of policy innovation whose experiments can exacerbate or ameliorate racial inequality. In this article, we develop state-level scores of racial resentment. By using linear multilevel regression and poststratification weighting techniques and by linking nationally representative survey data with US Census data, we create time-varying, dynamic state-level estimates of racial resentment from 1988 to 2016. These measures enable us to explore the extent to which subnational levels of racial attitudes fluctuate over time and to provide a comparative analysis of state-level racial resentment scores across space and time. We find that states’ levels of racial animus change slowly, with some exhibiting increases over time while others do just the opposite. Southern states’ reputation for having the highest levels of racial resentment has been challenged by states across various regions of the United States. Many states had their lowest levels of symbolic racism decades ago, contrary to the traditional American narrative of racial progress.



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A previous version of this article was awarded the Lucius Barker Award at the 2018 Midwest Political Science Association Meeting.

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The Dynamics of Racial Resentment across the 50 US States

  • Candis Watts Smith, Rebecca J. Kreitzer and Feiya Suo


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