The Long Shadow of the Civil War: The Recurrent Historical Centrality of Anti-Black Political Threat in Eroding Public Support for American Democracy

July 5, 2023

OSF Preprints logo

Racial threat from demographic change is a central component in driving democratic backsliding in the U.S. The researchers show that the threat which emerges in the minds of Americans is predominantly Black political threat (BPT), which connects to deeply embedded sentiments of anti-Black prejudice dating back to emancipation following the Civil War. They validate the existence of and strength of BPT, which we find overwhelmingly among Republicans, through a variety of empirical tests that capture the concept and its link to eroding support for democracy and heightened support for political violence using a series of pre-registered experiments and qualitative data. They further show that elites still reinforce this threat using hate speech that specifically targets Black Americans. And finally, we show that when uncertainty about the political future of the U.S. is introduced, it vitiates BPT, thereby increasing support for democracy among those who were once threatened.

Read the preprint in OSF.