‘White grievance’ helps fuel election skepticism 

Those who believe white people in the United States experience racial discrimination are more likely to also believe our electoral process is corrupted, according to recent research from the University of Illinois Chicago. 

The research, led by Alexandra Filindra, an associate professor of political science and psychology, is published in the Journal of Race, Ethnicity and Politics

Using data from three American National Election Studies from 2012 to 2020, and one YouGov survey from 2021, the researchers found that the belief that white people experience discrimination, called white grievance, is a significant predictor of election skepticism. 

The researchers analyzed the answers from non-Hispanic white participants to survey questions such as “How much discrimination is there in the United States today against each of the following groups?” which included white people as one of the groups. Another question asked, “In the November 2020 general election, how accurately do you think the votes will be counted?”

The analysis showed that belief in white grievance was a predictor of election skepticism even when the researchers controlled for attitudes such as anti-immigrant beliefs or resentment against other racial groups. The correlation between belief in white grievance and election skepticism in 2020 was strongest among white Republicans and independents. 

Election skepticism is of grave concern, according to the authors, because democracy only functions if all parties in an election accept the outcome, they point out. Furthermore, Filindra told PsyPost, the concept of white grievance is being weaponized. 

“Political elites, especially those associated with the MAGA movement, have implicitly and explicitly cultivated such grievances,” Filindra told PsyPost. MAGA refers to the campaign slogan for President Donald Trump, “Make America Great Again.”

“This is a very dangerous game to play,” she said. “Democracy depends on citizens believing that institutions are generally fair and that even if their side loses today, they will get a fair chance to compete tomorrow.” 

Filindra covers similar themes in her 2023 book,Race, Rights and Rifles: The Origins of the NRA and American Gun Culture.” Coauthors on the election skepticism study are clinical assistant professor Noah Kaplan and graduate student Andrea Manning, both in the political science department at UIC.  


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