Rachel Lienesch is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt University. She graduated in June of 2023. Her research examines how race and identity influence public opinion and political behavior.
In her dissertation, Rachel investigated how White Democrats navigate a social and political world that increasingly puts their racial attitudes and White racial identity in conflict. She argues that White Democrats’ attitudes cannot be understood without a careful examination of how they navigate Democratic politicians’ use of messaging that threatens another salient identity: their racial identity. In examining how White identity affects the politics of White Democrats, Rachel applies insights from political science, social psychology, and sociology. She contends that progressive racial messaging that is perceived as threatening to Whites’ racial in-group should spark a negative response among White Democrats because it may harm their self-esteem and/or heighten fears about their material well-being.
Rachel’s research utilizes a range of data and methods, including public opinion surveys, experiments, administrative data, and qualitative analysis of archival sources. In other projects, she explores how race and partisanship shape political and social outcomes. This includes a project examining the relationship between geographic, social, and psychological racial contexts, as well as one that assesses the effect of partisan disagreement on divorce.
She graduated with honors from The College of William and Mary with a B.A. in Government and a minor in Sociology.