Tea Party movement has paved the way for racialized language in US politics

February 8, 2018, Springer

Overtly racially motivated rhetoric is becoming increasingly acceptable in Republican politics in the US. Two Italian researchers now argue that this can partly be traced back to the conservative Tea Party movement which has reshaped the Republican party's identity away from its traditional conservative axioms to one that is more nativist and racially tinged. Luigi Leone and Fabio Presaghi from the Sapienza University of Rome have published their findings in Springer's journal Race and Social Problems.

The Tea Party movement's name refers to the 1773 Boston Tea Party, when demonstrations against taxes imposed on colonists by the British government launched the American Revolution. The modern-day Tea Party began in 2009 in opposition to the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan of former President Barack Obama, and the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). Various Tea Party organizations rapidly made their mark in the Republican Senate and House primaries, and subsequent midterm elections.

Leone and Presaghi investigated the influence of the Tea Party on current US political discussions by analysing data collected from 3495 white respondents who took part in the 2012 survey of the American National Election Studies. The researchers found that people who supported the Tea Party were more likely to feel resentment against races other than their own, and – more importantly – that those supporting the Tea Party relied more strongly on their racial resentment in evaluating Obama.

"The interaction we found between and support for the Tea Party could reflect how tolerance for overtly racially motivated rhetoric increases the role of racial animus in shaping attitudes," says Leone.

The researchers contend that the form of overtly racialized political language used by Trump is not unexpected.

"This type of language was tested by the Tea Party as a new way of reintroducing into mainstream political discourse overtly racialized political meanings," explains Leone.

"Racial resentment and racially motivated political discourse have become less disturbing as an after effect of Tea Party rhetoric and Trump's communication strategy," adds Presaghi. "The tense racialization of several political topics under the Trump presidency is a legacy of the Tea Party's ability to make racially hostile content in political communication acceptable to a large number of white Americans."

Explore further: The hidden agenda of Obama's opposition

More information: Luigi Leone et al, Tea Party Support, Racial Resentment and Evaluations of Obama: A Moderation Analysis, Race and Social Problems (2018). DOI: 10.1007/s12552-018-9224-6

Related Stories

The hidden agenda of Obama's opposition

June 18, 2013

Is the US Tea Party movement a racial backlash against President Obama? A new study by Angie Maxwell from the University of Arkansas, and Wayne Parent from Louisiana State University, assesses whether racial attitudes are ...

The revolt of the Rust Belt may explain Trump's election

November 8, 2017

A new British Journal of Sociology article explains that Donald Trump's victory was less about the candidate himself and more about a rejection of the Democratic Party by white and black working-class voters across the Rust ...

The tea party and the politics of paranoia

May 22, 2013

Members of tea party claim the movement springs from and promotes basic American conservative principles such as limited government and fiscal responsibility.

Recommended for you

Researchers make coldest quantum gas of molecules

February 21, 2019

JILA researchers have made a long-lived, record-cold gas of molecules that follow the wave patterns of quantum mechanics instead of the strictly particle nature of ordinary classical physics. The creation of this gas boosts ...

Sculpting stable structures in pure liquids

February 21, 2019

Oscillating flow and light pulses can be used to create reconfigurable architecture in liquid crystals. Materials scientists can carefully engineer concerted microfluidic flows and localized optothermal fields to achieve ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.