In this report, we follow-up on our first communications testing report, Talking About Race: A Summary of Findings, by demonstrating that talking about race directly could effectively move people to support progressive fiscal policies.
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As we approach a time when there will no longer be any single racial majority in America, we have to ask ourselves hard questions. Are we comfortable with race, and racial dynamics, as our nation’s demographics change? Are we ready to embrace one another despite our perceived differences, or will we choose the cynical acceptance of what has become the norm in our country— ongoing segregation, Black voter suppression, economic exploitation, militarized policing, and mass incarceration? Can we counter the race wedge – the process of using race as a tactic to divide people in order to achieve a political outcome? Are we ready to embrace a new vision of shared prosperity? Are we willing to embrace a truly inclusive democracy?
In this report, we explored whether talking about race directly could effectively move people to support progressive fiscal policies. We tested messages that re-frame people of color as contributing, hardworking Americans —“makers” instead of “takers”—with the goal of moving people toward supporting more progressive fiscal policies.
• First round of testing: Does the Messenger Matter?
We tested progressive messages with White spokespeople and with racially diverse spokespeople against conservative messages to see if the race of the messenger affects how participants respond to the message.
• Second round of testing: What Counters the Race Wedge on Fiscal Policies?
We tested several progressive messages against one conservative message to see if people’s attitudes about progressive fiscal policies differed based on the level of racial explicitness of the message and on the stereotypical or non-stereotypical nature of the spokespersons’ occupations.
The results from our testing show that race explicit messages move people toward progressive fiscal policies and that people like and agree with messages that have a multiracial cast. While the testing revealed information in a number of areas, the following findings stand out:
- Progressive policy messages that specifically name race are successful with the general public.
- The majority of people are holding two frames at once on policy issues and race, both progressive and conservative.
- Even people with high implicit bias, when watching a progressive, racially explicit message, agreed with progressive fiscal policies.
- Talking about race does not elevate individual implicit bias.
- Racially diverse spokespeople are better received than White-only spokespeople.
This shows us that we can talk about race more explicitly than ever before. Not only does this finding support on-the-ground efforts to highlight the experiences of people of color, but it also can be used to inform communications strategies for a range of issues, from housing to education to health care and beyond.
We believe that the research and findings in this report are important tools and resources for countering the race wedge that divides our communities, and for building public will towards advancing and preserving racial equity. We are no longer in the dark about dominant narratives, but are at a point where we can and should confront the race wedge. We can change the narrative and move toward a country in which all thrive—whether we are Black, Latino, Asian, Indigenous, multiracial, or White. While this report focuses on progressive fiscal policy, we can extrapolate the findings to other contexts as well. With the growth and urgency of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which has brought police brutality and racial profiling into the nation’s consciousness, the time is ripe for a narrative change on race. Now is the time to push the envelope and talk about race in a way that will shift Americans’ perspectives on both racial identity and racially equitable solutions.
We believe that our current research will be important in the movement to support and catalyze a change in the process of disrupting and constructing race-based narratives. We can—indeed, we must—talk about race and win meaningful policy changes that transform communities and our country.