Filed Under:

How Do Racial Attitudes Affect Opinions About The Health Care Overhaul?

Play associated audio

As the Supreme Court gets ready to hear a case involving the constitutionality of President Obama's health care overhaul, social scientists are asking a disturbing — and controversial — question: Do the intense feelings about the health care overhaul among ordinary Americans stem from their philosophical views about the appropriate role of government, or from their racial attitudes about the signature policy of the country's first black president?

In a new paper published in the American Journal of Political Science, Michael Tesler presents survey and experimental data that suggest that the racial attitudes of ordinary Americans have shaped both how they feel about the health care overhaul, and how intense those feelings are.

The paper is one of many studies that examines how the views of voters on policy issues are shaped — at least in part — by factors unrelated to those subjects: Voters are more likely to back the policies of leaders with whom they share some core aspect of identity, such as race or religion.

Tesler finds that blacks have become increasingly supportive of health care under Obama's watch. Among whites, Tesler finds a sharp divide between whites who have a liberal outlook on racial issues compared with those who have a conservative outlook on racial issues.

In an experiment, Tesler presents a health care overhaul policy to whites, telling some that the policy is advocated by Bill Clinton and telling others that it's advocated by Barack Obama; Tesler finds that whites with liberal racial attitudes become more supportive of the policy when they think Obama is its chief advocate, while whites with a conservative attitude become less supportive of the policy when they think of health care as an Obama policy.

The study is part of a broad range of research projects that shows that issues such as race and religion play a powerful role in shaping how people feel about policies related to war, welfare and crime.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Barry Meier: "Missing Man"

Nine years ago, former FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared in Iran while on a mission for the CIA. The story of his secret journey to Iran, the CIA cover-up that followed and efforts to rescue the longest-held U.S. hostage.

NPR

5,000-Year-Old Chinese Beer Recipe Revealed

Researchers discovered ancient "beer-making tool kits" in underground rooms built between 3400 and 2900 B.C. Analyses of funnels, pots and jugs show the brewers were using pretty advanced techniques.
WAMU 88.5

The Fight for D.C.'s Budget Freedom

Last week, a House committee with oversight of the District passed legislation that would block the ability of the Council to spend its own tax dollars.

WAMU 88.5

The U.S. Expands Ties To Vietnam

President Obama lifts the embargo against U.S. arms sales to Vietnam: Please join us to talk about what closer ties between the U.S. and Vietnam mean for trade, leverage on human rights and growing concerns over China's military expansion.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.