Increased engagement with politics on social media predicts future decreases in racial resentment among liberals in the United States, according to new research published in Computers in Human Behavior. But this doesn’t appear to be the case for conservatives or independents.
“What drew my interest to this topic was the public opinion data and individual stories telling us that an increasing number of White Americans perceive that they are facing discrimination for being White, also called reverse racism,” study author Ian Hawkins, a visiting assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“This perception seems to conflict with what is actually occurring as extensive research tells us that minority groups still face the most discrimination. But regardless of whether increased reverse racism is occurring or not, perception is key and can be a motivating factor for some White Americans. I wanted to further understand what influences and possibly contributes to this idea of reverse racism.”
For their new study, Hawkins and his colleagues analyzed longitudinal data from 621 White participants, who completed online surveys in August 2016, October/November 2016, and November/December 2016. The participants completed questionnaires regarding their engagement with politics on social media, strength of white identity, political identity, racial resentment, and perceptions of reverse racism.
The researchers found that increased engagement with politics on social media was indirectly linked to decreased perceptions of reverse racism via lower racial resentment.
That is, participants who reported greater engagement with politics on social media were less likely to agree with statements such as “It’s really a matter of some people just not trying hard enough; if Blacks would only try harder, they could just be as well off as Whites.” Lower racial resentment, in turn, was associated with decreased perceptions of reverse racism (e.g. “These days non-Whites benefit from preferential treatment that puts Whites at a disadvantage.”
However, the negative relationship between social media engagement and racial resentment was only observed among political liberals — not conservatives or independents.
“We found that engaging with politics on social media reduced reverse racism through reduced racial resentment, but that this relationship was influenced in part by participants who identified as liberal,” Hawkins told PsyPost. “We also show that having a more conservative political identity is related to increased reverse racism beliefs via higher racial resentment attitudes. Altogether, social media engagement, political identity, and racial resentment all had an influence on reverse racism beliefs.”
But the study, like all research, includes some caveats.
“Our study only examined how social media use influences different beliefs like racial resentment and reverse racism,” Hawkins explained. “But media content that might contribute to these attitudes likely comes from various sources rather than just solely social media. Future research should examine how entertainment television, video games, the news, etc. might also influence reverse racism.”
“Beliefs like reverse racism are harmful and increasingly becoming more widely held and mainstream,” Hawkins added. “These attitudes do not operate in a vacuum as they likely have implications for policies or political candidates that individuals support or their willingness to participate in collective action. Because of this we need continued information on what is motivating reverse racism and what role social media and identity play.”
The study, “How social media use, political identity, and racial resentment affect perceptions of reverse racism in the United States“, was authored by Ian Hawkins and Muniba Saleem.