A study by Princeton and Yale researchers turns a common political narrative on its head: White liberals actually are much more likely to act in “patronizing” ways toward minorities than are white conservatives.
White Democratic presidential candidates and self-identified liberals are more likely to downplay their own competence when speaking to minorities, using fewer words that emphasize competence and more words that show warmth, according to the report titled “Self-Presentation in Interracial Settings: The Competence Downshift by White Liberals.”
In contrast, the study found that white conservatives do not address white and minority audiences in a significantly different fashion.
Cydney Dupree, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management who worked on the study alongside Princeton co-author Susan Fiske, said she was surprised by the findings.
“It was kind of an unpleasant surprise to see this subtle but persistent effect,” Dupree said in a press release. “Even if it’s ultimately well-intentioned, it could be seen as patronizing.”
African-Americans typically are stereotyped in American society as less competent and white liberals’ behavior toward them might reflect this bias, Dupree said.
Researchers analyzed a total of 74 speeches given to both white and minority audiences by Democratic and Republican presidential candidates over a 25-year period, finding similar results.
“The team found that Democratic candidates used fewer competence-related words in speeches delivered to mostly minority audiences than they did in speeches delivered to mostly white audiences,” the press release said.
These “competence-related words” refer to one of two measures the researchers used to analyze the speeches. These words are about “ability” or “status,” such as “assertive” or “competitive,” according to the press release.
The other measure of the speeches was words related to “warmth”—that is, “words about friendliness, such as ‘supportive’ and ‘compassionate.’”
The number of competence-related words used by white conservatives in front of white and minority audiences did not differ in a statistically significant way, researchers found. White conservatives generally used the same number of competence-related words regardless of the racial makeup of their audiences.
Read the full story from The Daily Signal
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