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Disavowing White Identity: How Social Disgust can Change Social Identities

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Recent work finds that the sense of solidarity some whites feel with their racial group is strongly associated with their political attitudes, particularly since the election of Barack Obama. Prior work has also noted that levels of this identity have been stable across time and data sources. We, however, document a notable decline in levels of white identity in both panel and cross-sectional national survey data immediately after the 2016 presidential election. Using a two-wave panel design, we examine the factors associated with this decline. We examine whether particular emotional reactions, especially disgust toward Donald Trump, pushed some whites away from their racial identity. We also consider the possibility that some whites may have felt that Trump's election reduced perceptions of racial or political threat, therefore lowering levels of white identity. We find the strongest support for the former hypothesis; the decline in white identity was driven mostly by whites expressing disgust toward Trump. Our results highlight the effect that the political environment can have on group identities and point in particular to the significant role that disgust may play in attenuating the strength of group solidarity.




Jardina, A., Kalmoe, N., & Gross, K. (2020). Disavowing White Identity: How Social Disgust can Change Social Identities. Political Psychology.

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