Economic Interests Cause Elected Officials to Liberalize Their Racial Attitudes
Political Research Quarterly, Forthcoming, 2020.
53 Pages Posted: 23 Dec 2016 Last revised: 2 Jan 2020
Date Written: January 1, 2020
Do attitudes of elected officials towards racial issues change when the issues are portrayed as economic? Traditionally, scholars have presented Confederate symbols as primarily a racial issue: elites supporting their eradication from public life tend to emphasize the association of Confederate symbols with slavery and institutionalized racism, while those elected officials who oppose the removal of Confederate symbols often cite the heritage of white southerners. In addition to these racial explanations, we argue that there is an economic component underlying support for removal of Confederate symbols among political elites. Racial issues can also be economic issues, and framing a racial issue as an economic issue can change elite attitudes. In the case of removal of Confederate symbols, the presence of such imagery is considered harmful to business. Two survey experiments of elected officials in eleven U.S. southern states show that framing the decision to remove Confederate symbols as good for business causes those elected officials to favor removing the Confederate flag from public spaces. Elected officials can be susceptible to framing, just like regular citizens.
Keywords: Race, Legislatures, Representation, Economic Interests, Legislative Voting, State Politics, Symbolic Politics, Race and Politics
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