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When are Stereotypes about Black Candidates Applied? An Experimental Test

  • Kristyn L. Karl (a1) and Timothy J. Ryan (a2)


Past research shows that candidates' racial identities influence the assumptions that voters draw about how they will behave in office. In a national survey experiment examining televised candidate advertisements, we find evidence that stereotypes differ both in their potency and how vulnerable they are to disconfirmation. Consistent with previous work, black candidates are broadly assumed to be more liberal than white candidates, although the effect is notably small in magnitude. Yet when it comes to more specific stereotypes—how black candidates will behave on individual issues—effects are not only much larger, but also more contingent on what information is available. We find that by providing a small bit of ideological information, black candidates can overcome the assumption that they will enact liberal policies as concerns taxation and non-racialized aspects of social welfare policy. But it is much more difficult for them to overturn the assumption that they will prioritize aid to minorities while in office.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Timothy J. Ryan, Department of Political Science, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 361 Hamilton Hall, CB 3265, Chapel Hill, NC 27599. E-mail:


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When are Stereotypes about Black Candidates Applied? An Experimental Test

  • Kristyn L. Karl (a1) and Timothy J. Ryan (a2)


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