STUDY: Liberals show more 'indirect indicators of bias' toward minorities than conservatives

  • Researchers from Yale and Princeton, respectively, found that white liberals present less “competence” than do white conservatives when interacting with minorities.
  • The study analyzed the words of liberals and conservatives in presidential speeches and in email exchanges.
  • Researchers measured participants’ words in terms of “warmth” and “competence.”

An Ivy League study suggests that white liberals are more likely than white conservatives to draw on stereotypes when conversing with minorities.

Cydney Dupree, a Yale University organizational behavior professor, and Susan Fiske, a professor of psychology at Princeton University, conducted thestudy and found that white liberals tend to use “indirect forms of bias, drawing on negative stereotypes to affiliate with Blacks.”

The study, titled “Self-Presentation in Interracial Settings: The Competence Downshift by White Liberals,” indicated that liberals are less likely to show competence when speaking to minorities than are conservatives.   

The study, titled “Self-Presentation in Interracial Settings: The Competence Downshift by White Liberals,” indicated that liberals are less likely to show competence when speaking to minorities than are conservatives. 

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Dupree and Friske tested the participants’ language in two experiments, one containing presidential speeches from Republicans and Democrats and another consisting of email exchanges.

The researchers scored the text in the experiments based on warmth and competence, warmth being words associated with friendliness or morality, and competence being words associated with ability or status. Liberals tended to score lower on competence than did conservatives.

According to the study, given that black Americans are shown stereotypically as less competent than white Americans, white liberals are drawing on negative stereotypes in their lack of competence-related words when interacting with blacks.

Dupree describes warmth as one’s “intentions towards others” and competence as one’s ability to “carry out those intentions,” according to a newsletter in Yale Insights.

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The researchers found that Democratic presidential speeches featured fewer “competence” words than Republican presidential speeches, and also found that liberals were less likely to use “competence” words in emails to someone with a stereotypically black name.

“Internal meta-analyses revealed that liberals—but not conservatives—presented less competence to Black interaction partners than to White ones,” the study read, “This possibly unintentional but ultimately patronizing competence downshift suggests that well-intentioned liberal Whites may draw on low-status/competence stereotypes to affiliate with minorities.”

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The researchers contend that, although America is becoming a more inclusive and egalitarian country, “indirect indicators of bias” still persist among well-intentioned liberals.

Campus Reform reached out to Dupree and Fiske but did not receive a response in time for publication. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @knelson1776



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Kenneth Nelson

Kenny Nelson is an Intern and Campus Correspondent, and reports on liberal bias and abuse for Campus Reform. He attends Colorado State University, where he co-founded the Battering Ram, a student-run newspaper.

20 Articles by Kenneth Nelson