From hierarchy to rivalry: Asian candidate evaluation in changing racial contexts

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Existing studies on candidate evaluation have posited that racial cues would invoke negative attitudes toward outgroups, thus lowering support for minority candidates. However, recent studies have found that even implicit racial cues show no negative effect but actually work positively in favor of the minority candidates. In this study, I explore this puzzle by setting up a survey experiment that pairs an Asian candidate against competitors with varying racial backgrounds. Consistent with the existing evidence, I found that White voters tend to support an Asian candidate to a greater degree than a co-ethnic, White competitor. However, departing from the previous studies that have explained this tendency as a reward for model minority, I argue that such a pattern is associated with reaffirming Whites’ ingroup identity in a racial hierarchy by compensating minorities. When the apparent racial hierarchy—White versus non-White—is replaced with a minority-only context, Whites no longer need to favor an Asian candidate and divide their support more evenly to the two minority candidates. I further show that this tendency is moderated by the intensity of their ingroup attitudes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-344
Number of pages12
JournalAsian Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Asian Association of Social Psychology and John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd


  • American politics
  • Asian Americans
  • candidate evaluation


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