Cover image for The race card : campaign strategy, implicit messages, and the norm of equality
The race card : campaign strategy, implicit messages, and the norm of equality
Mendelberg, Tali.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xv, 307 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
A theory of racial appeals -- The norm of racial inequality, electoral strategy, and explicit appeals -- The norm of racial equality, electoral strategy, and implicit appeals -- The political psychology of implicit communication -- Crafting, conveying, and challenging implicit racial appeals : campaign strategy and news coverage -- The impact of implicit messages -- Implicit, explicit, and counter-stereotypical messages : the welfare experiment -- Psychological mechanisms : the norms experiment -- Implicit communication beyond race : gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity -- Political communication and equality.

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E183 .M46 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Did George Bush's use of the Willie Horton story during the1988 presidential campaign communicate most effectively when no one noticed its racial meaning? Do politicians routinely evoke racial stereotypes, fears, and resentments without voters' awareness? This controversial, rigorously researched book argues that they do. Tali Mendelberg examines how and when politicians play the race card and then manage to plausibly deny doing so.

In the age of equality, politicians cannot prime race with impunity due to a norm of racial equality that prohibits racist speech. Yet incentives to appeal to white voters remain strong. As a result, politicians often resort to more subtle uses of race to win elections. Mendelberg documents the development of this implicit communication across time and measures its impact on society. Drawing on a wide variety of research--including simulated television news experiments, national surveys, a comprehensive content analysis of campaign coverage, and historical inquiry--she analyzes the causes, dynamics, and consequences of racially loaded political communication. She also identifies similarities and differences among communication about race, gender, and sexual orientation in the United States and between communication about race in the United States and ethnicity in Europe, thereby contributing to a more general theory of politics.

Mendelberg's conclusion is that politicians--including many current state governors--continue to play the race card, using terms like "welfare" and "crime" to manipulate white voters' sentiments without overtly violating egalitarian norms. But she offers some good news: implicitly racial messages lose their appeal, even among their target audience, when their content is exposed.

Author Notes

Tali Mendelberg is Associate Professor of Politics at Princeton University.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Mendelberg (Princeton Univ.) examines implicit communication. He studies change and continuity in electoral communication about inequality, particularly racial inequality, in the US. A major focus of this book is the assumption that there is a racial divide in the party system and the political psychology of white voters. The primary question is, "What makes white voters respond when leaders denigrate or subordinate African Americans?" Mendelberg focuses on those who are racist and not those who are the target of this racism. Ultimately the members of the dominant racial group are those who decide how equalitarian a polity will be. This reviewer has tried to understand why members of dominant groups sometimes rely on their stereotypes, fears, and resentments in reaching decisions that affect subordinate groups, and at other times do not. Mendelberg uses historical and experimental surveys and concludes that implicit communication about race is more prevalent today among dominant groups and far more deadly because it is less visible than the overt racism of the 1960s. Mendelberg's book is a must read. He combines normative and quantitative analysis with self-reflection. All levels and all libraries. P. Barton-Kriese Indiana University East

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. vii
List of Tablesp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Part 1 The Origin of Implicit Racial Appealsp. 1
Chapter 1 A Theory of Racial Appealsp. 3
Chapter 2 The Norm of Racial Inequality Electoral Strategy and Explicit Appealsp. 28
Chapter 3 The Norm of Racial Equality Electoral Strategy and Implicit Appealsp. 67
Part 2 The Impact of Implicit Racial Appealsp. 109
Chapter 4 The Political Psychology of Implicit Communicationp. 111
Chapter 5 Crafting Conveying and Challenging Implicit Racial Appeals: Campaign Strategy and News Coveragep. 134
Chapter 6 The Impact of Implicit Messagesp. 169
Chapter 7 Implicit Explicit and Counter-Stereotypical Messages: The Welfare Experimentp. 191
Chapter 8 Psychological Mechanisms: The Norms Experimentp. 209
Part 3 Implications of Implicit Racial Appealsp. 237
Chapter 9 Implicit Communication beyond Race: Gender Sexual Orientation and Ethnicityp. 239
Chapter 10 Political Communication and Equalityp. 268
Referencesp. 277
Indexp. 299