More Than Political Ideology: Subtle Racial Prejudice as a Predictor of Opposition to Universal Health Care Among U.S. Citizens

Megan Johnson Shen, Jordan P. LaBouff


Political rhetoric surrounding Universal Health Care in the United States typically deals only with differences in political ideology. Research on symbolic racism, however, indicates that subtle racial prejudice may also predict attitudes toward policies like universal health care that are assumed to benefit racial minorities. This subtle racial prejudice hypothesis was supported across three studies conducted in the U.S. A measure of attitudes toward universal health care was found to be a reliable, single-dimension measure associated with political ideology (Pilot Study). Subtle racial prejudice (as measured by the Modern Racism Scale) predicted opposition to universal health care, even when statistically controlling for political ideology and attitudes toward the poor (Study 1). Moreover, reading about a Black individual (compared to a White individual) receiving universal health care benefits reduced support for universal health care, even when statistically controlling for political ideology and right-wing authoritarianism (Study 2). Being a person who takes advantage of the system (e.g., free rides) was a significant predictor of universal health care attitudes while race was not (Study 3). This work demonstrates that subtle racial prejudice plays a critical role in predicting universal health care attitudes among U.S. citizens, reflecting a long-standing history of associations between subtle racial prejudice and opposition to governmental assistance programs in the U.S.


racial prejudice; political ideology; universal health care; public policy

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