Study claims ‘white fear’ causes opposition to welfare

The University of California recently highlighted a study on its news website claiming that "white fear" of increasing racial diversity "may be driving opposition to welfare programs."

Researchers from UC-Berkeley and Stanford University analyzed national survey data and concluded that both "racial resentment" and "opposition to welfare" increased among whites in 2008.

The University of California recently highlighted a study claiming that opposition to welfare programs is a direct result of “white fear.”

On June 7, UC Berkeley Media Relations representative Yasmin Anwar published a blog post on the University of California’s news website, arguing that “white Americans’ fear of losing their socioeconomic standing in the face of demographic change may be driving opposition to welfare programs.” 

The post, titled “Welfare backlash tied to white fear of declining status,” also underscores that “whites are major beneficiaries of government poverty assistance.”

[RELATED: Prof: ‘White hard worker mythology’ promotes white supremacy]

To support those claims, the university official references a recently published research project conducted by UC Berkeley and Stanford University, in which “researchers analyzed nationally representative survey data of over 7,000 adult American men and women,” and conducted two additional experiments with 400 participants.

“First, an examination of attitudes to race and welfare in a nationally-representative survey found that whites’ racial resentment rose in 2008, the same year of the Great Recession and election of Barack Obama, suggesting that perceptions of increased political power among minorities were leading whites to sense a threat to their group’s status,” Anwar writes. “At the same time, researchers discovered, whites’ opposition to welfare increased relative to that of minorities’.”

In support of that argument, Anwar cites the other two experiments conducted by the researchers, which claim to reveal evidence of white resentment of welfare programs. 

“Next, researchers conducted an experiment in which participants were shown one of two graphs highlighting different aspects of U.S. population trends: One emphasized a stable white majority, and the other emphasized the declining white population in the U.S.,” she explains.

“White participants who saw information highlighting a decline in the white population reported heightened racial resentment and opposition to welfare programs,” she continues. “And, when asked how they would trim the federal budget, they recommended larger cuts to welfare.” 

[RELATED: Profs: Poor white males are the main obstacle to gun control]

The other experiment in the study purports to prove that “when whites saw a threat to their economic advantage over minorities, they were more likely to want to cut social safety net programs, but only if those programs were portrayed as primarily benefiting minorities, not if they were portrayed as benefiting whites.” 

To assess this, the researchers showed participants two graphs depicting U.S. population trends, one emphasizing “a stable white majority” and the other emphasizing “the declining white population in the U.S.” 

According to Anwar’s post, “white participants who saw information highlighting a decline in the white population reported heightened racial resentment and opposition to welfare programs,” as well as a greater desire to use welfare cuts to trim the federal budget.

[RELATED: Prof says ‘white Christians’ facing an ‘existential crisis’]

“Overall, these results suggest whites’ perceptions of rising minority power and influence lead them to oppose welfare programs,” said Berkeley researcher Rachel Wetts, the lead author of the study.

Stanford professor Robb Willer, a senior author of the study, also concluded that the findings “suggest that these threats lead whites to oppose programs they perceive as primarily benefiting racial minorities.” 

Willer acknowledged, however, that “welfare programs are race-blind in that all low-income Americans are eligible to receive them,” adding that “opposition to them, especially during tough economic times, threatens the same safety net that helps whites, as well as minorities, endure economic hardship.”

UPDATE:  A University of California, Berkeley spokesperson told Campus Reform that the school highlights academic research based on considerations such as “timeliness of topic,” “broad public interest and solid research.”

“That same week, we profiled a Republican student on the campaign trail, surveys about Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Gavin Newsom and John Cox being the frontrunners in their respective races and the impending launch of a satellite to probe the edge of space,” the spokesperson added. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @celinedryan