Thursday, October 17, 2013

Racism linked to Tea Party Membership

A recent peer-reviewed study sheds light on the link between racism and attitudes toward Obama among Tea Party members/ supporters.  In a paper presented at the American Political Science Association (APSA) in 2012 and published in the journal Race and Social Problems (September 2013, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp. 226-237) political scientists Angie Maxwell (University of Arkansas) and T. Wayne Parent (Louisiana State University) examined the relationship between racial attitudes, evaluations of President Obama, and Tea Party membership.  Maxwell and Parent used data from a national survey of 1,649 White, Non-Hispanic respondents.  They employed three widely used racial scales—symbolic racism, ethnocentrism, and racial stereotypes.  All three emerged as significant predictors of attitudes toward Obama.  The researchers write: “In fact, as shown in the model, a one unit increase in symbolic racism is predicted to result in a 0.35 decrease in approval of President Obama, holding everything else in the model constant.  Similarly, an increase in racial stereotypes and ethnocentrism is predicted to decrease presidential support by 0.27 and .003 respectively…In sum, approval of President Obama among white respondents is significantly influenced by racial attitudes.”  The researchers called the ethnocentrism racial scale particularly influential because it directly and indirectly predicted Tea Party membership. Additionally, symbolic racism was statistically significant in predicting overall Tea Party support.
Admittedly, this is just one study but it is the first peer-reviewed academic study that I have seen that sheds light on racial attitudes and Tea Party support/membership.  It doesn’t speak well for the movement.  What is disturbing is that there have been well-documented  instances of overt racism at Tea Party rallies.  Now we have evidence of a more subtle type of racism that the evidence suggests is clearly associated with Tea Party support.  Fortunately, the Tea Party seems to be losing support among the population as a whole and its influence in Washington and ability to elect Tea Party candidates in general elections seems to be on the decline. 

Citation: Angie Maxwell and T. Wayne Parent, "A Subterranean Agenda? Racial Attitudes, Presidential Evaluations and Tea Party Membership," Race and Social Problems, September d2013, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp. 226-237.  You can download this paper here:

UPDATE: A study from 2010 found a similar link between racism and support for the Tea Party.  See that study here:  as did a study published in 2013 here:

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