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Across three experimental studies, we explored how a political candidate's intersections of skin tone, race, and ethnicity affect voting preferences and interpersonal judgments (e.g., warmth, trustworthiness, expertise). Study 1 assessed whether White participants would favor a light-skinned (vs. dark-skinned) African American candidate. Study 2 investigated participant (White vs. non-White) voting preferences based on the interaction between candidate race/ethnicity and relative skin tone (lighter vs. darker). In Study 3, we examined the influence of candidate race/ethnicity on voters’ preferences as well as the accuracy and impact of memory for candidate skin tone. Supporting our hypotheses, White participants generally held more negative attitudes (e.g., expressed less warmth, perceived candidates as less trustworthy) and were less likely to vote for underrepresented candidates with darker skin tones than non-White participants were. Additionally, voters remembered politicians as having a lighter skin tone, and the extent of such bias predicted warmth, perceived trustworthiness, and expertise of the candidate. While candidate race/ethnicity on its own did not affect voting preferences and attitudes, it significantly influenced voters when race/ethnicity was associated with certain skin tones (i.e., brown skin tone). Theoretical, practical, and political implications for judgments influenced by skin tone and race/ethnicity of candidates are discussed.


This article was originally published Open Access in Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.


Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy


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