Racial Projections in Perspective: Public Reactions to Narratives about Rising Diversity

Racial Projections in Perspective: Public Reactions to Narratives about Rising Diversity

By Morris Levy, University of Southern California and Dowell Myers, University of Southern California

Threatened reactions to news about the approach of a racial majority-minority society have profoundly influenced Americans’ political attitudes and electoral choices. Existing research casts these reactions as responses to changing demographic context. We argue instead that they are driven in large part by the dominant majority-minority narrative framing of most public discussion about rising racial diversity. This narrative assumes the long-run persistence of a white-nonwhite binary in which the growing number of Americans with both white and non-white parents are classified exclusively as non-white, irrespective of how they identify themselves. Alternative narratives that take stock of trends toward mixed-race marriage and multiracial identification also reflect demographic fundamentals projected by the Census Bureau and more realistically depict the country’s twenty-first century racial landscape. Using three survey experiments, we examine public reactions to alternative narratives about rising diversity. The standard majority-minority narrative evokes far more threat among whites than any other narrative. Alternative accounts that highlight multiracialism elicit decidedly positive reactions regardless of whether they foretell the persistence of a more diverse white majority. Non-white groups respond favorably to all narratives about rising diversity, irrespective of whether they include the conventional majority-minority framing.


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