Many studies evaluate factors that impact political ideology, but a new one takes a look at how the idea of a so-called "majority-minority nation" affects political leanings.
Researchers at Northwestern University found that white Americans tend to favor more conservative ideals as minority populations grow.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that minority races will comprise the majority of the U.S. population by 2042, creating this "majority minority."
“We wondered how this kind of ‘us-vs-them’ framing would be perceived by members of the current majority,” psychological scientist Maureen Craig said, according to the Association for Psychological Science.
The study authors conducted four experiments using the results from a Pew Research survey to see how political leanings were impacted by this idea. The first experiment, in which participants read that California is a majority-minority state, found that the idea of the shift swayed politically unaffiliated Americans toward the Republican Party, according to the abstract. The other three studies found that regardless of a held political affiliation, this shift in racial demographic led whites to more strongly support conservative policies.
Conversely, study participants who read that white Americans have higher average incomes and wealth compared to other groups did not change their political leanings because, the study authors thought, they didn't feel threatened by the demographic shift.
With these findings, the study authors believe that increasing diversity could create an even wider political divide.
“These findings may be particularly relevant to media and government agencies who are currently reporting on these racial shifts, presumably without awareness of these potential threat effects," Craig told Association for Psychological Science. “We’re working on ways to present information regarding these very real and important shifts in the country’s racial demographics that don’t engender these type of threat responses and, instead, promote positive relations among members of the majority and minority groups.
The study was published in the journal Psychological Science.