Discord over DNA: Politically Contingent Responses to Scientific Research on Genes and Race

Posted: 25 Aug 2014 Last revised: 28 Sep 2016

See all articles by Alexandre Morin-Chassé

Alexandre Morin-Chassé

University of Montreal - Department of Political Science; Canada Research Chair In Electoral Studies

Elizabeth Suhay

American University; American University - School of Public Affairs

Toby Jayaratne

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Public Health

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

We argue that attributing racial inequality to genetic differences between blacks and whites is not entirely a notion from a bygone era and that common (mis)perceptions of how genes work and the political implications of those perceptions increase the likelihood of motivated reasoning surrounding this topic. We test for ideologically motivated reasoning among white Americans in response to media messages conveying the contemporary scientific perspective that racial differences are not genetic in origin. In two studies — one observational and one experimental — we find that political ideologues on the left and right reacted very differently to this information. Liberals exposed to such messages were less likely to endorse genetic explanations for race differences than their low exposure liberal counterparts, whereas conservatives exposed to such messages were more likely to endorse genetic explanations. We conclude that there is latent potential for an eruption of public disagreement over the causes of racial inequality.

Suggested Citation

Morin-Chassé, Alexandre and Suhay, Elizabeth and Jayaratne, Toby, Discord over DNA: Politically Contingent Responses to Scientific Research on Genes and Race (2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper, American University School of Public Affairs Research Paper No. 2014-0002, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2455004 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2455004

Alexandre Morin-Chassé

University of Montreal - Department of Political Science ( email )

Pavillon Lionel-Groulx
3150, rue Jean-Brillant
Montréal, Québec H3T 1N8
Canada

Canada Research Chair In Electoral Studies

Université de Montréal
C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-ville
Montréal, Quebec H3C 3J7
Canada

Elizabeth Suhay (Contact Author)

American University ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

American University - School of Public Affairs ( email )

Washington, DC 20016
United States

Toby Jayaratne

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Public Health ( email )

1415 Washington Heights
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029
United States

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