Study: White Leftists Simplify Their Language For Minorities

Two researchers from Yale and Princeton Universities found that over a 25-year period, white Democratic political candidates patronized minorities by dumbing down their language so as to appear more approachable. They also tested whites who were not politicians to see if that also held true for them, and found that again, leftists dumbed down their language, while conservatives did not.

Yale Insights reports that Cydney Dupree, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Yale SOM, and her co-author, Susan Fiske of Princeton University, wanted to know how whites interacted with minorities. Dupree stated, “There’s less work that explores how well-intentioned whites try to get along with racial minorities. We wanted to know their strategies for increasing connections between members of different social groups—and how effective these strategies are.”

First, the researchers examined the words used in 74 different campaign speeches delivered by Democratic and Republican presidential candidates over a 25-year-period. Around half of the speeches were delivered to mostly minority audiences; those speeches were compared to a speech to a mostly-white audience. Two elements of the speech were analyzed: words related to competence and words related to warmth.

The results showed Democratic candidates used fewer competence-related words speaking to minorities than when speaking to white audiences. Republican candidates did not change their discourse. Dupree commented, “It was really surprising to see that for nearly three decades, Democratic presidential candidates have been engaging in this predicted behavior.”

The researchers then tested white participants to see how they would interact with a hypothetical or presumed-real interaction partner. Half of the time, the partner was given a name that ostensibly sounded white, such as “Emily,” while the rest of the time the partner received a name that sound like a non-white, such as “Lakisha.” Participants chose from a list of words, all of which had been rated for their warmth or competence, to use to send an email to the partner.

The researchers found that leftists eschewed using words that would limn them as highly competent when addressing minorities; conservatives simply spoke the way they always did. Dupree said of the leftists, “It was kind of an unpleasant surprise to see this subtle but persistent effect. Even if it’s ultimately well-intentioned, it could be seen as patronizing.”

Dupree concluded, “There’s a lot of research focused on biased individuals and how holding bias, especially implicit bias, can influence social interactions. But that leaves a lot of people out. My hope is that this work will help include well-intentioned people who see themselves as allies but who may be unwittingly contributing to group divides. There is a broader need to include them in the conversation.”

Brandon Morse of RedState commented, “We often hear from social justice adherents that we carry an implicit bias toward people of other races, and then immediately point to anyone other than themselves. Now we see why. On average, the white left is guilty of believing minority individuals are of lower intelligence than they are and dumb down their speech in order to feel like they’re being kinder to them by doing so.”


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