Do Politicians Racially Discriminate against Constituents?

Here is an example of how racial prejudice persists. Racism is institutionalized because institutions made by and operated by people. People make racist decisions not necessarily because they are overt racists but because most prejudices operate below conscious thought.

One thing that surprised me a bit is that racism existed similarly among both blacks and whites. Black politicians are also racially biased toward perceived black email senders. I’m not surprised that blacks are racist just like whites, but I am surprised that the racism operates the same way. I’ve seen other research that shows, in courts, both white and black jurors are more biased against black defendants. So, apparently context matters in how racism manifests.

Do Politicians Racially Discriminate against
Constituents? A Field Experiment on State Legislators
Short Title: Do politicians racially discriminate?

Daniel M. Butler, David E. Broockman

We use a field experiment to investigate whether race affects how responsive state legislators are to requests for help with registering to vote. In an email sent to each legislator, we randomized whether a putatively black or white alias was used and whether the email signaled the sender’s partisan preference. Overall, we find that putatively black requests receive fewer replies. We explore two potential explanations for this discrimination: strategic partisan behavior and the legislators’ own race. We find that the putatively black alias continues to be differentially treated even when the emails signal partisanship, indicating that strategic considerations cannot completely explain the observed differential treatment. Further analysis reveals that white legislators of both parties exhibit similar levels of discrimination against the black alias. Minority legislators do the opposite, responding more frequently to the black alias. Implications for the study of race and politics in the United States are discussed.

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