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Playing the Race Card in the PostWillie Horton Era

Hurwitz, Jon

Public Opinion Quarterly, 2005, Vol.69(1), pp.99-112 [Peer Reviewed Journal]

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  • Title:
    Playing the Race Card in the PostWillie Horton Era
  • Author: Hurwitz, Jon
  • Description: To date, little is known about the precise impact of racially coded words and phrases. Instead, most of what we know about racialized messages comes from studies that focus on pictorial racial cues (for example, the infamous Willie Horton ad) or on messages with an extensive textual narrative that is laced with implicit racial cues. Because in a post-Horton era strategic use of racially coded words will often be far more subtle than those explored in past studies, we investigate the power of a single phrase believed by many to carry strong racial connotations: inner city. We do so by embedding an experiment in a national survey of whites, where a random half of respondents was asked whether they support spending money for prisons (versus antipoverty programs) to lock up violent criminals, while the other half was asked about violent inner city criminals. Consistent with the literature on issue framing, we find that whites racial attitudes (for example, racial stereotypes) were much more important in shaping preferences for punitive policies when they receive the racially coded, inner city question. Our results demonstrate how easy it is to continue playing the race card in the postWillie Horton era, as well as some of the limits of such framing effects among whites with more positive racial attitudes.
  • Is Part Of: Public Opinion Quarterly, 2005, Vol.69(1), pp.99-112
  • Identifier: ISSN: 0033-362X ; E-ISSN: 1537-5331 ; DOI: 10.1093/poq/nfi004
  • Subjects: Racism ; Criminal Justice ; Language Use ; Inner City ; U.S.A. ; Sociology

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