When they say it's not about race .... | Arkansas Blog

When they say it's not about race ....

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A most interesting account of a study that probed whether feelings about race influenced feelings about health care reform.

First, 285 community members (i.e., not just college students) completed measures of their racial attitudes in October 2008. Some of this assessment was explicit–that is, it consisted of point-blank questions about racial ideology. Some of it was implicit–reaction-time based tasks designed to assess the race-based associations and stereotypes that we are otherwise unable or unwilling to disclose (see here for web-based examples of this type of task).

One year later, this same sample was again asked to complete a questionnaire, this time concerning attitudes towards a health care reform plan that would end differential treatment of individuals based on pre-existing medical conditions and cap out-of-pocket medical expenses. Each participant read about the same reform plan. But the researchers varied the purported author of the policy, telling half that it was the Clinton plan from 1993 and telling the other half that it was Obama's plan (bear in mind that this was in October 2009, before there really was any such thing as a specific "Obama Plan").

What did the researchers find? When the plan was portrayed as Clinton's, respondents' personal racial attitudes were unrelated to their support for it. But when the exact same plan was portrayed as Obama's? In that case, the more implicit racial prejudice a respondent indicated one year prior, the less supportive he or she was of the health care proposal now.

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