1) Tesler, Michael. 2012. "The Spillover of Racialization Into Health Care: How President Obama Polarized Public Opinion by Racial Attitudes and Race." American Journal of Political Science, 56(3): 690-704. Data
This study argues that President Obama's strong association with an issue like health care should polarize public opinion by racial attitudes and race. Consistent with that hypothesis, racial attitudes had a significantly larger impact on health care opinions in fall 2009 than they had in cross sectional surveys from the past two decades and in panel data collected before Obama became the face of the policy. Moreover, the experiments embedded in one of those re-interview surveys found health care policies were significantly more racialized when attributed to President Obama than they were when these same proposals were framed as President Clinton's 1993 reform efforts. Dozens of media polls from 1993-1994 and 2009-2010 are also pooled together to show that with African-Americans overwhelmingly supportive of Obama's legislative proposals, the racial divide in health care opinions was 20 percentage points greater in 2009-2010 than it was over President Clinton's plan back in 1993-1994.
2) Tesler, Michael. 2013. "The Return of Old Fashioned Racism to White Americans' Partisan Preferences in the Early Obama Era" Journal of Politics, 75(1): 110-123.
Old fashioned racism (OFR), as shown below and elsewhere, was unrelated to white Americans’ partisan preferences throughout the post-civil rights era. This study argues OFR could return to white partisanship following decades of dormancy because of Obama’s presidency. After first demonstrating that such attitudes were stronger predictors of opposition to Obama than ideologically similar white Democrats, I support that hypothesis with the following evidence: Opposition to interracial dating was significantly correlated with white partisanship in 2009 despite being unrelated to party identification in twelve earlier surveys; evaluations of Obama almost completely mediated that relationship between OFR and partisanship; Old fashioned racism predicted changes in white panelists’ partisanship between 2006 and 2010; these attitudes were also a stronger determinant of midterm vote preferences in 2010 than they were in 2006, with that relationship once again mediated by President Obama; and experimentally connecting Obama to congressional candidates significantly increased the relationship between OFR and 2010 preferences.
3) Tesler, Michael. 2013. "Priming Predispositions and Changing Policy Positions: An Account of When Mass Opinion is Primed or Changed." Revise and Resubmit, American Journal of Political Science
Prior research provides limited insights into when political communications prime or change citizens’ underlying opinions. This paper attempts to fill that void by putting forth a new account of priming and opinion change. I argue that crystallized attitudes can often be primed by new information. An influx of attention to less crystalized issues, however, should lead individuals to alter their underlying opinions in accordance with prior beliefs. Since predispositions acquired early in the lifecycle like partisanship, religiosity and group-based affect/antagonisms are more crystallized than mass opinion about public policy, media and campaign content will tend to prime citizens’ predispositions and change their policy positions. Both my review of previous priming research and original analyses presented in this study from five new cases strongly support that crystallization-based account of when mass opinion is primed or changed. I conclude with a discussion of the paper’s potential methodological, political, and normative implications.
4) Tesler, Michael. 2012. "President Obama and the Novel Influence of Anti-Muslim Sentiments in the 2010 Midterm Elections," Under Review
Despite the visibility of Islamic issues after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, attitudes about Muslims did not affect Americans’ partisan evaluations before the 2008 election. There are two main reasons, however, to suspect that anti-Muslim sentiments significantly influenced Americans’ midterm preferences in 2010 after being unrelated to their vote choices in both the 2004 and 2006 congressional elections. First, Republican efforts to cultivate the Ground Zero Mosque Controversy as a campaign issue in the summer and fall of 2010 may have activated such Islamaphobic sentiments. Second, the unusually large effects of anti-Muslim predispositions on opposition to Obama documented in earlier research may have spilled over into voting behavior. After showing that attitudes about Muslims were significantly associated with 2010 vote preferences, I present the following evidence in support of that spillover hypothesis: (1) Attitudes about Muslims were implicated in 2010 vote intentions before the Ground Zero Mosque dominated the headlines; (2) mass evaluations of President Obama almost completely mediated the significant effects of attitudes about Muslims in four different 2010 surveys; and (3) experimentally connecting president Obama to candidates for congress significantly enhanced the relationship between anti-Muslim sentiments and midterm vote preferences.
5) Tesler, Michael. 2013. "When Science and Ideology Collide: Explaining Public Doubts about Global Warming and Evolution." Under Review.
This article examines public skepticism about global warming and evolution. The results indicate that conservatives doubt the existence of global warming in large part because of elite rhetoric, but that evolution beliefs are unrelated to reception of political discourse. News reception is perhaps the strongest predictor of conservatives’ climate change skepticism, but has no influence on their aversion to evolution. Moreover, politically attentive conservatives were actually more likely to believe scientists about global warming than liberals were in the 1990s before the media depicted climate change as a partisan issue. The United States is also the only nation where news reception significantly predicts conservatives' skepticism about climate change. Finally, evidence from a nationally representative survey experiment shows that Americans would be less skeptical about manmade global warming if more Republicans in congress believed in it, but a growing congressional consensus about evolution would not diminish doubts about that scientific issue.
6) Tesler, Michael. 2010. "Patriot Priming in Presidential Elections: When and Why American Patriotism Matters in Voting for President."
American patriotism has been a major theme in recent presidential campaigns. Perhaps because of the visible patriotic appeals during the 1988, 2004 and 2008 campaigns, studies show that patriotism was an important determinant of vote choice in each of those elections. Yet, prior research offers little basis for a broader understanding of when and why patriotic attitudes matter in presidential voting. This study provides that foundation by examining patriotism’s influence on vote preference at multiple time periods during the 1988, 2004 and 2008 campaigns. I also compare those results with patriotism’s impact on the 1992 and 2000 presidential elections, and analyze patriotic voting in congressional elections from 1988 to 2006. Taken together, the findings suggest that the 1988 presidential campaign was largely responsible for activating patriotism’s significant impact on that year’s election, but patriotic attitudes have become a sizable and stable predictor of Republican vote choice in post-9/11 national elections.
7) Tesler, Michael and David O. Sears. 2010. “Is the Obama Presidency Post Racial? Evidence from his First Year in Office,” in Michael Tesler and David O. Sears. Obama’s Race: The 2008 Election and the Dream of a Post-Racial America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Our previous research on the 2008 election suggests that American politics could become increasingly organized by racial and ethnocentric attitudes during Obama’s presidency. This study assesses how these findings from the campaign may have been altered during his first year in office. Our exposition of the evidence indicates that very little has changed since Barack Obama became president. More specifically, we show: (1) Obama’s early presidential job approval ratings were influenced considerably more by racial attitudes than was the case for previous presidents, (2) support for Obama from white racial liberals had much to do with those highly racialized presidential approval ratings, (3) the effect of racial resentment on evaluations of Obama remained remarkably stable from early 2008 to November 2009, (4) President Obama continued to be evaluated not just as an African American but as someone who was distinctly “other,” and (5) Obama-induced racialization spilled over into issues on which the White House took visible positions, such as health care.