Political partisanship influences perception of biracial candidates' skin tone

Eugene M. Caruso, Nicole L. Mead, Emily Balcetis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

People tend to view members of their own political group more positively than members of a competing political group. In this article, we demonstrate that political partisanship influences people's visual representations of a biracial political candidate's skin tone. In three studies, participants rated the representativeness of photographs of a hypothetical (Study 1) or real (Barack Obama; Studies 2 and 3) biracial political candidate. Unbeknownst to participants, some of the photographs had been altered to make the candidate's skin tone either lighter or darker than it was in the original photograph. Participants whose partisanship matched that of the candidate they were evaluating consistently rated the lightened photographs as more representative of the candidate than the darkened photographs, whereas participants whose partisanship did not match that of the candidate showed the opposite pattern. For evaluations of Barack Obama, the extent to which people rated lightened photographs as representative of him was positively correlated with their stated voting intentions and reported voting behavior in the 2008 Presidential election. This effect persisted when controlling for political ideology and racial attitudes. These results suggest that people's visual representations of others are related to their own preexisting beliefs and to the decisions they make in a consequential context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20168-20173
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume106
Issue number48
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2009

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Skin Pigmentation
Politics

Keywords

  • Barack Obama
  • Bias
  • Psychology
  • Race
  • Voting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Cite this

Political partisanship influences perception of biracial candidates' skin tone. / Caruso, Eugene M.; Mead, Nicole L.; Balcetis, Emily.

In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 106, No. 48, 01.12.2009, p. 20168-20173.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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