Nav: Home

Threatened by diversity

October 26, 2016

In this election year of unprecedented acrimony, one of the most polarizing issues of all is rooted in what's typically considered a national strength: diversity.

But as it turns out, according to UC Santa Barbara psychologist Brenda Major, not all Americans value the country's multicultural ethos.

"Many whites are feeling very threatened by the increasing ethnic and racial diversification of America," explained Major, a professor in UCSB's Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences who specializes in social identity. "Donald Trump understands that, feels their same angst and plays to it. The threat of diversity among white Americans who highly identify with their ethnicity is playing a key role in shaping this year's presidential contest."

To explore that idea, Major designed an experiment to demonstrate how the changing racial demographics of America are contributing to Trump's success as a presidential candidate among white Americans. The findings appear in the journal Group Processes & Intergroup Relations.

While previous studies have shown that reminding white Americans about increasing racial diversification of the country makes them identify as more politically conservative, none of those studies had considered whether the degree to which the participants identified with their white ethnicity made a difference. That's where Major decided to focus her spotlight.

In March 2016, 594 white U.S. residents participated in a "Brief Study on Perceptions and Beliefs." They were asked to read one of two randomly assigned press releases. The first indicated that racial minorities would outnumber whites in the U.S. in about 25 years; the other used similar language to explain that geographic mobility is increasing.

Participants then answered questions about perceived threats to the status of their group, their support for the Republican and Democratic primary candidates, anti-immigration attitudes, support for anti-bias norms in speech ("political correctness") and how important their ethnicity was to them.

An analysis of their answers showed white Americans whose ethnic identity was important to their self-concept became more supportive of Trump after reading the article about increasing racial diversity vs. the article about geographical mobility. This was true regardless of political party affiliation.

"If you're white and you're highly identified with your ethnicity, reminding you of increasing diversity moves you toward Trump, turns you against anti-bias norms and makes you endorse anti-immigrant policies more,"Major said, "whether you are Democrat or Republican."

Why does this happen? Because reminding highly identified white Americans of increasing racial diversity caused them to become more concerned about the declining status and influence of their group. This threat to group status, in turn, led to more pro-Trump, anti-immigrant and anti-PC attitudes.

Noting the nuances revealed by the data, Major added: "Not everyone reacted the same to the diversity message. While highly identified white people became more pro-Trump after reading about increasing diversity, for those less identified with their ethnicity, we found the opposite effect. Reminding them of increasing diversity made them more against Trump and more supportive of anti-bias norms."

For Major, the findings underscore the importance of identity politics -- the tendency of people to adopt political positions based on the interests of social groups with which they identify, such as race, gender or religion.

"I predict that white identity politics will be on the stage more and more and become a larger part of the political discourse in the United States in the coming years," Major said.
-end-


University of California - Santa Barbara

Related Diversity Articles:

Bursts of diversity in the gut microbiota
The diversity of bacteria in the human gut is an important biomarker of health, influences multiple diseases, such as obesity and inflammatory bowel diseases and affects various treatments.
Underestimated chemical diversity
An international team of researchers has conducted a global review of all registered industrial chemicals: some 350,000 different substances are produced and traded around the world -- well in excess of the 100,000 reached in previous estimates.
New world map of fish genetic diversity
An international research team from ETH Zurich and French universities has studied genetic diversity among fish around the world for the first time.
Biological diversity as a factor of production
Can the biodiversity of ecosystems be considered a factor of production?
Fungal diversity and its relationship to the future of forests
Stanford researchers predict that climate change will reduce the diversity of symbiotic fungi that help trees grow.
Brain diseases with molecular diversity
Parkinson's and multisystem atrophy (MSA) - both of them neurodegenerative diseases - are associated with the accumulation of alpha-synuclein proteins in the brain.
United in musical diversity
Is music really a 'universal language'? Two articles in the most recent issue of Science support the idea that music all around the globe shares important commonalities, despite many differences.
Genetic diversity facilitates cancer therapy
Cancer patients with more different HLA genes respond better to treatment.
A new ranavirus threatens US amphibian diversity
In a study published in the Oct. 15 issue of Ecological Modelling, a team of University of Tennessee researchers along with a colleague from the University of Florida model how a chimeric Frog virus 3 (FV3)-like ranavirus, also known as RCV-Z2, can spread rapidly throughout a population of North American wood frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) tadpoles.
New way to target cancer's diversity and evolution
Scientists have revealed close-up details of a vital molecule involved in the mix and match of genetic information within cells -- opening up the potential to target proteins of this family to combat cancer's diversity and evolution.
More Diversity News and Diversity Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.