What role, if any, do Americans see for the government in advancing racial equity?
To answer that question, Topos, in partnership with the Othering and Belonging Institute, and with the support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, undertook an extensive, multi-method research effort designed to:
1) Determine the current landscape of American public opinion on race and government,
2) Develop an audience typology at the intersection of government accountability and racial equity, and
3) Test three message approaches, each with unique outcomes, to add to communicators’ strategies.
Racism presents the deepest challenge in American life. Audiences bring their own complex—and often hidden or even subconscious—perspectives to the issue. This research strongly suggests that current public discourse on race would benefit from an explicit discussion of the government’s role, helping audiences to see how policies shape lives.
A careful analysis of American stances at the intersection of race and government finds distinct challenges to address with each segment:
Pragmatic Advocate want government to do more to address racial inequities, but are skeptical of government impact and have a low sense of efficacy.
Idealistic Advocates want government to do more to address racial inequality, and believe disparities stem from discriminatory policies, systems, and institutions.
Muddled Movables are hesitant about government action, but are more persuadable than other segments.
Conflicted are rugged individualists who largely endorse a hard work, personal responsibility ethos despite believing race-based discrimination is pervasive.
Hardline Objectors are staunchly opposed to increasing government’s role and reject that Black people face greater discrimination than do white people.
Finally, this research adds three messages to communicators’ toolkit. An explicit discussion of Government’s Role in racial equity puts race at the center of the conversation and effectively increases support for government problem solving, including taking action to improve conditions for Black people. A Community Investment message empowers people to take action and increases support for more government action, though communicators will need to take strides to ensure race doesn’t fall out of the conversation. A Different Groups, Different Challenges approach reaches those who are normally resistant to race-related conversations.
Making government accountability a centerpiece of our national conversation on race will go a long way toward achieving the equitable, thriving America we seek.