Prejudice, Perceived Discrimination, and Turnout

This paper (with Justin Berry) presents evidence that racial resentment and perceptions of relative discrimination have independent, negative effects on white political participation, but that, interactively, they have a positive effect. This paper was recently accepted for publication at Political Behavior.

To make these claims, we draw on scholarship on white identity politics and social identity theory to theorize a link between white’s perceptions of relative deprivation, racial resentment, and voter turnout. We use data from the 2012, 2016, and 2020 editions of the ANES to test that relationship.

We present evidence of strong negative relationships between racial resentment, relative deprivation, and white turnout. However, we also show that, when interacted, those variables have a positive association with white turnout. We argue that this indicates that some whites may not be mobilized by their prejudice unless they connect their prejudice to illusory anti-white discrimination. Conversely, we argue that these findings present evidence that whites who perceive substantial anti-white discrimination may not internalize racist elite rhetoric, and thus not be mobilized by prejudiced elite appeals.


The probability of whites turning out to vote is negatively associated with racial resentment and relative deprivation. However, whites who perceive whites are harmed by discrimination more than other groups are far less demobilized by their racial resentment than their peers who perceive less inequality.


ANES. 2012. “2012 Time Series Study.” Data available here.

Colin Cepuran Written by:

Colin Cepuran is a political scientist and a policy analyst working in Kalamazoo, MI.