“Latino Race Cards: Negative Racial Appeals in Contemporary Campaigns and the Bounds of Racial Priming Theory” (DOI: 10.7275/24599237)

The Implicit Explicit (IE) model of racial priming (Mendelberg 2001) continues to be the dominant theoretical model for understanding the impact of negative racial campaign appeals on white voter mobilization despite significant demographic change in the United States. The theoretical underpinnings of the IE model rest upon a norm of racial equality which emerged in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement. Given the specific racial and historical context in which this racial norm developed it is unclear whether the IE model can account for the impact of non-Black racial appeals on white voter mobilization. I apply the concept of “foreigner positionality” to argue that this egalitarian racial norm does not extend to account for behaviors directed toward Latinos in contemporary politics. Additionally, the hyper-partisan and hyper-racialized context in which contemporary campaigns take place may have altered the perception of what constitutes a racial appeal. Using a nationally representative sample of non-Hispanic, white adults from the 2016 CCES, I employ a comparative survey experiment to test whether similar rhetorical-visual constructions of anti-Black and anti-Latino appeals have differential impacts on white voters’ candidate favorability ratings. The results demonstrate that the norm of racial equality does not extend beyond African Americans; that there appears to be partisan bifurcation around the adherence and maintenance of a norm of ‘African American’ equality; and raise significant questions about the assumption that the decision to express primed racial thinking occurs at an unconscious level.