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Perceived threats to racial status drive white Americans’ Tea Party support, Stanford scholar says

Tea Party member with sign

In a new study, Stanford sociologist Robb Willer found that popular support for the Tea Party derives in part from perceived threats to the status of whites in America.

Image Credit: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock
May 9 2016

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In the News, Research

In five experiments, Stanford sociologist Robb Willer found that popular support for the Tea Party derives in part from perceived threats to the status of whites in America.

Threats to racial status among white Americans have driven support for the Tea Party political movement and may also help explain the rise of Donald Trump, a Stanford sociologist said.

Since the Tea Party’s rise in 2009, academic experts have offered different explanations for its growth. The latest evidence from Stanford researchers shows that a perception of a “decline of whiteness” among some white Americans may be a key reason.

For example, white people who were shown an artificially darkened picture of President Barack Obama were more likely to report they supported the Tea Party than if they were shown an artificially lightened version.