How to Generate Public Support for Alleviating Racial Disparities

A recent study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of California, Irvine, and Duke University finds that highlighting racial health disparities can spark public support for remedial action.

“Health disparities may be viewed as particularly pernicious because issues related to health and medical care – broadly, the protection of human life – are considered sacred moral values. When something is sacred, it is treated as morally imperative to protect relative to non-sacred, secular concerns such as economic issues,” the authors explained.

“Racial health disparities violate concerns of moral sacredness and spark injustice beliefs, calling Americans to action,” according to the study by Maureen Craig, Duke associate research professor of psychology and neuroscience, and two of her former doctoral students – Riana M. Brown and Pia Dietze.

Americans generally agree something should be done to address racial disparities, but what’s telling is how responses differed, depending on how the questions were phrased. For example, people were asked if they would support action generally, as well as their support of specific policies, such as a tax increase, to ameliorate the issue.

“There’s a gap between how much people say something should be done and how much they agree that money should be taken from taxes in order to do it,” Dr. Craig explained. “What we are saying is that by focusing more on the health consequences, even if it’s driven by economics, the focus on the health consequences should be more mobilizing,”

The full study was published in a recent issue of Science. It may be accessed here.

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