Race, sophistication, and white opinion on government spending

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The conventional wisdom in public opinion research suggests that the white public views government spending as a single race-coded issue. This article develops an alternative theory that rests on two propositions. First, the white public sees government spending not as a single issue, but rather, as two distinct issues: spending on the deserving poor and spending on the undeserving poor. Second, political sophistication strengthens the impact racial stereotypes have on attitudes toward spending on the undeserving poor, and it does not affect the relationship between stereotypes and attitudes toward spending on the deserving poor. These hypotheses are tested using data from the 1996 and 1992 NES surveys. The empirical results provide strong support for both propositions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-220
Number of pages20
JournalPolitical Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2003


  • Deserving poor
  • Government spending
  • Political sophistication
  • Racial stereotypes
  • Undeserving poor


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