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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 11, 2019

The Political Meaning of Whiteness for Liberals and Conservatives

  • Deborah J. Schildkraut EMAIL logo
From the journal The Forum


This study examines new open-ended and closed-ended survey responses among white liberals and conservatives in the US to assess the role they think their racial group membership plays in how they think about politics. It then uses insights from those responses to develop and test a new measure designed to capture how white identity operates politically. To date, much political science research on white racial identity documents the links between white identity and right-leaning candidate and policy preferences. Much less is known about the role of whiteness on the left. The analysis here shows that even though white liberals talk about anti-racism, privilege, and institutional racism when asked about race and politics and say that they have become more aware of their race in recent years, they generally do not view their own whiteness as a politically salient identity. The results indicate that it is important for scholars to use measures that distinguish between whites who appear “woke” but do not act on their “wokeness” from whites for whom an awareness of privilege motivates them toward an anti-racist agenda.


Thank you to the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University for providing funding for this project. Thank you to Peter Levine for insightful feedback.


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Published Online: 2019-11-11

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