'Romney Relies On Race To Attack Obama On Welfare'
Ryan Enos, an Assistant Professor of Government at Harvard University who specializes in the politics of race & identity and voting behavior studies Romney's deceptive welfare ads (see the post for the evidence backing the conclusions below):
Romney Relies On Race To Attack Obama On Welfare, by Ryan D. Enos: Mitt Romney has stuck with his theme of attacking President Obama over "gutting" the work requirement for welfare. In an often-aired television commercial, Romney's claims that Obama "quietly" dropped the requirement that welfare recipients find work and instead they "just send you a check". ...
Of course, Romney’s claim is false. But are these ads effective politics? The answer appears to be yes – at least, if we just look at whether people believe the ads to be true. ...
However, once we look a little closer at these survey responses, we can see that if these ads are effective, it is most likely not because the ads are changing opinion, but rather because they are tapping into opinions that voters already hold - in this case opinions that are squarely rooted in attitudes about race. ...
These attitude associations should come as little surprise to those that are familiar with scholarship on racial politics in the United States, such as that of Martin Gilens, who demonstrates that Americans tend to have negative attitudes about welfare because of its association with African Americans. At the same time, Michael Tesler and David Sears, have shown that attitudes about Obama are powerfully predicted by resentment towards African Americans. It is this resentment that likely ties together attitudes about welfare and Obama.
Like most questions of complex public policy, Americans do not have the inclination or ability to pay careful attention to the nuance of the issue – instead they rely on shortcuts, which psychologists call heuristics, to guide their attitudes about the policy. Here people likely rely on the heuristic provided by their pre-existing feelings towards African Americans: they don't like welfare, they especially don't like welfare without a work requirement, they don't like Obama, and they associate African Americans with all these things – making it easy to simultaneously hold negative attitudes about all of them.
With their ads, the Romney campaign is simply "priming" the easy association some voters have between welfare and Obama and the negative feelings associated with both – unfortunately, to do this, Romney must cynically rely on the connecting thread of racism that makes this association possible.
Romney's dishonest campaign tells me two things, he has nothing of his own to sell so he has no choice but to attack the other side instead, and when he does attack he has little to criticize except misrepresentations of Obama's policies and statements. It's also clear that he is willing to use deceptive presentations of facts, or outright falsehoods, to justify goals he believes are worthy, a trait that reminds me of George Bush.
Posted by Mark Thoma on Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 10:36 AM in Economics, Politics |
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