Vince Hutchings - "If They Only Knew": Informing Blacks and Whites about the Racial Wealth Gap

Encina Hall West, room 400

Even after the George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020, most White Americans continue to oppose racially liberal policies. Similarly, Black support for racially redistributive policies is often less than monolithic.  Would support for policies to eradicate racial inequality increase if common misperceptions held by White and Black Americans about racial inequality were corrected? We examine this question with three survey experiments fielded online by CloudResearch that focus on information about the racial wealth gap.  Study 1 (N=1,908) was fielded at the height of the George Floyd demonstrations in June of 2020. Study 2 (N=2,166) was fielded in March of 202, and Study 3 (N=2,990) was collected in August of 2022.  Participants were divided almost equally between self-identified Black and White Americans. In each survey experiment, subjects were randomly assigned either to a control condition, where they were merely provided a brief definition of the racial wealth gap, or to one of several treatment conditions that provided textual and visual information on the current size of the Black/White racial wealth gap based on information from the Survey of Consumer Finances. In general, we find that the treatment conditions do increase information levels on the presence, direction, and perceived size of the racial wealth gap, but they typically do not increase support for racially redistributive policies among White liberals or African Americans. We find in Study 3 that our treatments increase support for some race-neutral policies among White liberals and we also find some unanticipated evidence of a backlash effect among White liberals. We discuss the implications of our findings next steps for our research agenda in our conclusion.


Vincent Hutchings is the Hanes Walton Jr. Collegiate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan and a Research Professor at the Institute for Social Research.  In 2020, he was also appointed as a University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor. He received his Ph.D. in 1997 from the University of California, Los Angeles. Professor Hutchings conducts research and teaches courses in Black politics, American public opinion and voting behavior, and racial attitudes. In 2003, he published a book entitled Public Opinion and Democratic Accountability, from Princeton University Press.  His research has primarily focused on the ways in which political campaigns and the media frame information about racial issues in order to activate and make politically relevant the voters' sympathies and/or antipathies for particular racial groups. Professor Hutchings has received multiple grants from the National Science Foundation. He was one of the Principal Investigators of the American National Election Study from 2010-2017. In 2012, Professor Hutchings was elected as a Fellow to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS).