White Politics

Although Whites are projected to become a numerical minority in only a few decades, it does not necessarily follow that this group will become a political minority. With this in mind, Smith's work interrogates the way that White Americans understand racial inequality and their preferences for policies that may ameliorate disparities between groups. In addition to Smith's co-authored book Racial Stasis, she has written on the subjection of racial attitudes in American Politics in articles like the ones listed below as well as other outlets, such as the Scholars Strategy Network.

"Less is More:

A Cross-Generational 

Analysis of Racial Resentment"

“Less is More: A Cross-Generational Analysis of Racial Resentment” with Christopher DeSante, Forthcoming, Journal of Politics. 

Given the vast changes the American racial landscape has undergone since that scale was originally developed, we question whether this set of measures is related to racial attitudes in the same way across generational cohorts. We hypothesize that due to their socialization and life experiences, younger whites might be answering these questions in systematically different ways. Using several large data sets, we reach two important conclusions. First, younger Whites are not yet bringing about any meaningful change in the aggregate levels of racial resentment. Second, and more importantly, we show that while younger Whites appear to have lower levels of racial resentment, these survey items are more strongly related to old-fashioned anti-black affect among younger Whites. Thus, when it comes to Millennials’ racial attitudes, “less is more.”

"The Dynamics of Racial Resentment Across the 50 States"

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“The Dynamics of Racial Resentment Across the 50 States" with Rebecca Kreitzer and Feiya Suo. Perspectives on Politics. Forthcoming. 


States are laboratories of policy innovation whose experiments can exacerbate or ameliorate racial inequality. With that in consideration, we aim to develop state-level scores of racial resentment. By employing linear multilevel regression and post-stratification weighting techniques and by linking nationally-representative survey data with U.S. Census data, we create time-varying, dynamic state level estimates of racial resentment from 1988 to 2016. Through this endeavor we are able to explore whether and the extent to which subnational levels of racial attitudes fluctuate over time, and provide a comparative analysis of state-level racial resentment scores across space and time. We find that states’ levels of racial animus change slowly, but some exhibit increases over time while others do just the opposite. Additionally, we find that Southern states’ reputation for championing the highest levels of racial resentment has been challenged by states across various regions of the United States. Finally, when we examine state-year data, we find that many states have exhibited their lowest levels of symbolic racism decades ago, contrary to the traditional American narrative of racial progress.

(Based on the Lucius Barker Award for Best Paper on Racial and Ethnic Politics.)

“The New Principle-Policy Gap: How Diversity Ideology Subverts Diversity Programs”

“The New Principle-Policy Gap: How Diversity Ideology Subverts Diversity Programs” with Sarah Mayorga-Gallo. Sociological Perspectives, 60(5), 889-911, 2017.

Colorblind ideology is a dominant mode of thinking about race matters in the United States, but it is not the only racial ideology that operates today. The United States appears to be shifting toward becoming more race conscious. We add to the critical diversity studies literature, and argue that even though we see a greater appreciation for the presence of nonwhite bodies in various spaces, we are not likely to see real systemic change in the American racial hierarchy because of a reliance on diversity ideology. Through an analysis of semistructured interviews with 43 white Millennials, this article outlines the ways in which diversity ideology’s four tenets—diversity as acceptance, commodity, intent, and liability—help whites maintain power in multiracial spaces. This article pinpoints how whites employ these tenets to subvert policy efforts that aim to incorporate people of color into predominately white institutions, introducing a new principle-policy gap for the twenty-first century.

Check out Professor Smith 's CV for more research on White Politics & Racial Attitudes in American Politics.