Beyond Black and White: Biracial Attitudes in Contemporary U.S. Politics

Beyond Black and White: Biracial Attitudes in Contemporary U.S. Politics

By Lauren D. Davenport, Stanford University

The 2000 U.S. census was the first in which respondents were permitted to self-identify with more than one race. A decade later, multiple-race identifiers have become one of the fastest-growing groups in the nation. Such broadening multiracial identification poses important political ramifications and raises questions about the future of minority group political solidarity. Yet we know little about the opinions of multiple-race identifiers and from where those opinions emerge. Bridging literatures in racial politics and political socialization, and drawing upon a multimethod approach, this article provides insight into the consequences of the U.S.’s increasingly blurred racial boundaries by examining the attitudes of Americans of White-Black parentage, a population whose identification was traditionally constrained by the one-drop rule. Findings show that on racial issues such as discrimination and affirmative action, biracials who identify as both White and Black generally hold views akin to Blacks. But on nonracial political issues including abortion and gender/marriage equality, biracials who identify as White-Black or as Black express more liberal views than their peers of monoracial parentage. Being biracial and labeling oneself a racial minority is thus associated with a more progressive outlook on matters that affect socially marginalized groups. Two explanations are examined for these findings: the transmission of political outlook from parents to children, and biracials’ experiences straddling a long-standing racial divide.

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