Andrew Ifedapo Thompson

Assistant Professor of Political Science, George Washington University 

ait @ gwu [dot] edu

I am an assistant professor of political science at George Washington University. My research studies how racial demographic changes alter political perceptions and democratic commitments.  Within my projects, I use experiments, text-as-data, and surveys, among other methods to test these questions. Prior to GWU, I was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Notre Dame.

Research Areas

Research Area #1 -- Racial Demographic Change and the Future of American Democracy

The Big Flip: How Racial Demographic Change Shifts How Americans Think about Democracy 

(Under Review at Oxford Press)

The Partisan Utility of Racial Demographic Change and Democratic Backsliding in the American Public 

(Under Review)

Racial demographic change has become a political flashpoint in the United States. It is so salient that racial threat felt from these changes is tied to anti-democratic sentiments among Americans. In this project, I argue that the partisan utility of demographic change, not racially discriminatory attitudes, underlies the motivation behind both racial threat and anti-democratic views. Across 3 surveys and 2 pre-registered experiments, I demonstrate that Republicans anti-democratic attitudes are causally determined by the inferences they make about the coming racial demographic changes in the U.S. – they assume Democrats will benefit. When I frame the changes to be advantageous to the GOP, it reshapes Republicans’ views about the value of demographic change. This reframing decreases their feelings of racial threat, and in turn leads to less anti-democratic views. Overall, I argue that my findings are indicative of partisan utility-based view of democracy and race relations in the U.S.

Anti-Black Political Violence and the Historical Legacy of the Great Replacement Conspiracy -- with Noah Axford, Molly Ahern, Fryda Cortes, Maxwell Beveridge, and Jax Martinez Franks

(Forthcoming at Perspectives on Politics)

Racial violence is central to the American polity. We argue that support for violence, specifically anti-Black violence, has a long historical arc in American politics dating back to chattel slavery. Recent discussion of the “great replacement” conspiracy has been mischaracterized as a conspiracy theory unto itself. In this paper, we argue that the racial violence associated with the “great replacement” conspiracy is much more pervasive among the White American public due to the historical legacy of anti-Black violent sentiment. To investigate the prevalence of this idea, we conducted a preregistered simple priming experiment aimed to tap into top-of-mind ideas about racial demographic change. Our experimental design spans multiple data sources, including two probability samples, over the course of a year. We ultimately find that simply priming attitudes about racial demographic change through a single open-ended question consistently leads to increased support for political violence, increasing racial resentment and expressed anti-Black views. Our approach allows us to test this question through quantitative, qualitative, and machine learning means, all of which confirm strong associations Americans have between racial threat and anti-Black violence. In summary, our findings suggest that anti-Black violence has been supported throughout American history and continues to be pervasive in American culture today. 

White Fight: How Local Racial Demographic Changes Drive Extreme, Violent, White Nationalist Attitudes Across the Mass Public

(Under Review)

Democratic backsliding is occurring across the mass American public, driven strongly by racial attitudes.. Extending the idea of white flight, we find that there are conditions which facilitate more violent attitudes in reaction to demographic change, which we term as “white fight.” Across 3 experiments that use state targeted and national samples, when white Americans who have experienced increases in the local Black population and are randomly primed to think about national demographic change become expressively more violent. We define these as “white fight hotbeds.” Comparatively, we consistently find null effects for Hispanic and Asian population change. We also go further to show that white fight drives Republican party identification and diminishing concerns about white nationalism. Ultimately, local demographic conditions help to facilitate more extremist ideas and behavior, a crucial dimension for all scholars and practitioners engaged in monitoring and preventing domestic terrorism and hate crimes.

Clear and Present Danger: How Racial Threat Shapes Policy Opinion and Motivates Discrimination 

PSRM, 2023

The U.S. population is rapidly changing with recent projections showing that soon White Americans will no longer be the majority. Across a set of studies over two years I show that racial threat, from a typically non-threatening racial minority groups, Asians, has immediate effects on White Americans’ views of discrimination toward the group. I find that when White Americans learn the group is growing, they particularly feel threatened along economic lines. I move beyond extant work on threat by testing whether it subsequently shifts perceptions of discrimination and support for discriminatory policy. Particularly, I find that when Whites feel racial threat, it decreases support for the idea that the threatening group experiences discrimination while simultaneously increasing support for policy which actively discriminates against it – a concept I advance as discriminatory dissonance. Ultimately, these studies show that U.S. demographic change can have immediate consequences on Whites’ discriminatory in pernicious ways.

Racialized Data Literacy: Different Data Visualization Techniques Sharply Increase Propensities Toward Violence  -- with Noah Axford, Molly Ahern, Fryda Cortes, Maxwell Beveridge, and Jax Martinez Franks

(Under Review)

Data visualization has direct political implications. Across four experiments which slightly vary the visualization of data about projected racial demographic change in the United States, we find that particular displays of racial demographic change strongly alter the inferences that Americans make about the future of the U.S. These inferences lead to threatened sentiments, which increase support for political violence. We conclude that more detail than less is needed when using data visualization because of the potential for misinterpretation that could unintentionally inflame anti-democratic political sentiments.

Chronically Salient and Existential Racial Threat from Fox News Consumption -- with Sarah Moore and Toly Siopsis

(Under Review)

Are some news media outlets and contemporary information channels more detrimental to democracy in the United States than others? Partisan news outlets have been cited as agents of polarization and political ire with increasing significance over the past decade. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram also continue to grow in their popularity as news sources. In an era now characterized by misinformation and demonstrable democratic backsliding in the United States, the systemic consequences of these emergent trends are palpable. As overtly anti-democratic, racist, and exclusionary political ideas continue to seep into the mainstream of quotidian American political conversation through misinformation channels, it is important to examine and reconsider news media’s role in contributing to polarized and extremist political news content, and the effects thereof. This project uses the ANES and two nationally representative survey experiments toward the probative analysis of the effect of certain media outlets on propagating particularly harmful ideas regarding one case of misinformation– racial threat. 

How Threats Shape the Politics of Marginalized: Evidence from a Natural Experiment and Machine Learning -- with Jae Yeon Kim 

(Under Review)

In this study, we used a natural experiment and machine learning to examine how threats prompt information seeking among marginalized populations. We traced how the September11 attacks, an exogenous shock, increased the interest of Arab and Indian Americans in U.S. domestic politics. We classified 5,684 Arab American and Indian American newspaper articles using machine learning and estimated that three more articles on U.S. domestic politics were published daily in the post-9/11 period than in previous years. While the natural experiment design helps identify the relationship between the intervention and the outcome variation, an automated text classification creates essential data for such a research design. This project also provides an accompanying R package that makes collecting data from the largest database of ethnic newspapers published in the U.S. easier and faster.

Asian Racial Threat and Discriminatory Policy Attitudes in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic -- with Dina Paul 

(Under Review)

This project investigates how the coronavirus pandemic has become racialized, focusing specifically on how racial threat affects White Americans’ attitudes towards racial and policy preferences that pertain to the COVID-19 pandemic. First through a survey of the American public, we find that threat from Asians is the prime mover of racial concerns about the pandemic, among tests of competing hypotheses. Then in a second study using an experiment, we prime racial threat from Asians and find that it causes White Americans to become significantly more favorable for policy COVID-oriented policy that racially discriminates against Asians. Overall, these findings demonstrate that perceived threat from Asians has been a notable force during the pandemic that is central in shaping mass political attitudes.    

The Hidden American Nativist Consensus -- with Chris Dinkel 

(Under Review)

Nativism has received recent attention because of its salience in American politics, but it dates back to the early days of the Republic. We show nativist sentiments were established in the citizenship-eligibility requirement for the presidency have since been mirrored in the American public’s preferences outside of the executive. We argue that the inclusion of the natural born citizen clause in the U.S. Constitution helped set in motion public expectations for legislative and judicial office holders. Then, with a novel dataset, we show Americans who were not born in the United States have been severely underrepresented in Congress and on the Supreme Court. Finally, using two conjoint designs, we show candidates for Congress and the Supreme Court who fit a nativist mold are preferred by the public across party lines. Overall, we argue a nativist consensus exists in the public which could exacerbate inequalities of representation within American politics. 

Research Area #2 -- Racial Messaging and the Support for Political Elites

Defending the Dog Whistle: The Role of Justifications in Racial Messaging -- with Ethan Busby. Political Behavior (2021): 1-22.

American politicians frequently evoke race in their messages to the public; at the same time, politicians often pay a price for racialized rhetoric. We propose that elites continue to use messages about race because they can mitigate the costs of doing so with justifications for their original statements. Integrating literatures on elite rhetorical tactics and framing, we predict that when justifications and indirect racial messages are combined, elites can mobilize the support for racially resentful Whites without alienating others. In a pair of survey experiments conducted in 2019 and 2020, we examine the effectiveness of justifications in swaying Whites’ attitudes. We find that two different elite justifications bolster support for their messages. Importantly, we also find these tactics do not incur political costs. This provides a compelling reason that political figures continue to use racial messages in politics despite recent social movements and possible shifts in Americans’ attitudes about race.

Left on Read: How Elites Respond to Identity-Oriented Messages and Marginalized Constituents -- with Ethan Busby, Tomo Vierbuchen, and Suzy Yi 

(Revise and Resubmit at Political Behavior)

Listening and responding to citizens is central to representative democracy. However, elected officials are not equally responsive to all kinds of constituents. We apply an intersectional approach to responsiveness and propose it is determined by constituents’ identities, what constituents discuss, and the identities of elected officials. We implement a wide-scale experiment (N=23,738) involving elected officials at different levels of government in the United States. Extending previous work, we vary the race, gender, and topic of the constituent’s message. We evaluate elected officials’ willingness to both open and reply to different messages from different kinds of constituents. We find that Black men face penalties in responsiveness regardless of their message. In contrast, we find lower responsiveness to Black women when race is discussed and lower responsiveness for White women when gender is discussed. We examine the implications of this study for work on intersectionality and responsiveness in democracies.

Research Area #3 -- Theories of Representation

Which Matters More, the Means or the Ends? Preferences for Responsiveness in Process and Policy -- with Ethan Busby and Suzy Yi

(Under Review)

What does it mean for elected officials to be responsive to citizens? Drawing from various strands of political theory and empirical political science research, we discuss two conceptualizations of responsiveness - responsiveness in what the government produces (policy responsiveness) and responsiveness in how the government operates (process responsiveness). With rare exceptions, existing studies have overwhelmingly focused on policy responsiveness, which we argue paints an incomplete picture of the normative and conceptual function of responsiveness for citizens. Drawing from multiple sources of data, including the ANES, novel open-ended questions, an audit experiment, and a conjoint design, we find elites show unequal levels of responsiveness to their constituents and that citizens have preferences for both kinds of responsiveness. In most circumstances, we find that process responsiveness outweighs policy responsiveness in the mind of citizens. Even when it does not, there is always an additional boost in evaluates of elected officials when they demonstrate more policy responsiveness. Further, how elites respond to their constituents - in a policy or process sense - garners different perceptions of responsiveness, affective reactions, and levels of electoral support from members of the public. We find that these patterns emerge independent of elected officials’ other characteristics. Ultimately, we conclude that despite oversight from the academic community, citizens care deeply about how officeholders conduct the business of government and not simply the policies they produce. 

Research Area #4 -- Competing Theories of Democratic Backsliding

Party-ideology sorting in the United States: Correlates and consequences -- with Ethan Busby

(Manuscript in preparation)

Party-ideology sorting has recently gained prominence in political science research as an increasing trend in American society and indicative of the problematic divisions endemic to contemporary politics. Thus far, however, research on partisan sorting has not answered two key questions - who is sorted and how is sorting related to support for democracy? Using data from the 2016 and 2020 ANES, we provide answers to both of these questions. With these data, we find remarkably few consistent predictors of sorting, and find that many standard demographic and political variables appear to have no relationship with partisan sorting. We go on to confirm existing research on the link between sorting and participation and polarization, but we do not observe a connection between partisan sorting and support for democracy or democratic norms. This stands in stark contrast to many assumptions about the effects of partisan sorting and suggests that while sorting has real consequences, those consequences do not seem to undermine democratic government in the United States.

Testing Theories of Democratic Backsliding in the American Public -- with Catie Bailard

(Collecting Data)

Additional Ongoing Research

Not in my House: A Big Data Approach to the Impact of Non-discrimination Policy on a Homesharing Platform -- with Malka Guillot and Monika Leszczynska

A New American Political Narrative -- with Harris Mylonas

Facing Threat: Analyzing Emotional Reactions to Demographic Change Using Facial Expression Recognition

Climate Refugees and Changing Attitudes Toward Climate Change Mitigation

Additional Writing