The Partisan Utility of Racial Demographic Change and Democratic Backsliding in the American Public

08 June 2022, Version 1
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


Racial demographic change has become a political flashpoint in the United States. It is so salient that racial threat felt from these changes is tied to anti-democratic sentiments among Americans. In this project, I argue that the partisan utility of demographic change, not racially discriminatory attitudes, underlies the motivation behind both racial threat and anti-democratic views. Across 3 surveys and 2 pre-registered experiments, I demonstrate that Republicans anti-democratic attitudes are causally determined by the inferences they make about the coming racial demographic changes in the U.S. – they assume Democrats will benefit. When I frame the changes to be advantageous to the GOP, it reshapes Republicans’ views about the value of demographic change. This reframing decreases their feelings of racial threat, and in turn leads to less anti-democratic views. Overall, I argue that my findings are indicative of partisan utility-based view of democracy and race relations in the U.S.


democratic backsliding
racial threat
party identity

Supplementary materials

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