According to new research published in Computers in Human Behavior, increased engagement with politics on social media predicts future decreases in racial resentment among liberals in the United States. This appears not to be the case for conservatives or independents.

“What drew my interest to this topic was public opinion data and individual stories telling us that an increasing number of White Americans perceive discrimination for being White, also known as reverse racism,” study author Ian Hawkins, a visiting assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said.

“This perception appears to contradict what is actually happening, as extensive research shows that minority groups continue to face the most discrimination.” However, whether or not there is an increase in reverse racism, perception is important and can be a motivator for some White Americans. “I wanted to learn more about what influences and possibly contributes to the concept of reverse racism.”

Hawkins and his colleagues examined longitudinal data from 621 White participants who completed online surveys in August, October/November, and November/December of 2016. Participants filled out questionnaires about their social media engagement with politics, the strength of their white identity, political identity, racial resentment, and perceptions of reverse racism.

The researchers discovered that increased political engagement on social media was linked to lower perceptions of reverse racism via lower racial resentment.

Participants who reported greater political engagement on social media were less likely to agree with statements like “It’s really a matter of some people just not trying hard enough; if Blacks would just try harder, they could just be as well off as Whites.” Lower racial resentment was associated with lower perceptions of reverse racism (e.g., “These days, non-Whites benefit from preferential treatment that disadvantages Whites”).

The negative relationship between social media engagement and racial resentment, on the other hand, was observed only among political liberals, not conservatives or independents.

“We discovered that engaging in politics on social media reduced reverse racism by reducing racial resentment, but that this relationship was influenced in part by participants who identified as liberal,” Hawkins explained to PsyPost. “We also show that a more conservative political identity is associated with increased reverse racism beliefs through higher racial resentment attitudes.” Social media participation, political identity, and racial resentment all had an impact on reverse racism beliefs.”

However, the study, like all research, has some limitations.

“Our study only looked at how social media use influences different beliefs, such as racial resentment and reverse racism,” Hawkins said. “However, media content that may contribute to these attitudes is likely to come from a variety of sources, not just social media.” Future research should look into how entertainment television, video games, and the news, among other things, may influence reverse racism.”

“Reverse racism beliefs are harmful, and they are becoming more widely held and mainstream,” Hawkins added. “These attitudes do not exist in a vacuum because they are likely to have implications for the policies or political candidates that individuals support, as well as their willingness to participate in collective action.” As a result, we require ongoing research into what motivates reverse racism and the roles that social media and identity play.”

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