Countering Implicit Appeals: Which Strategies Work?

Matthew Tokeshi, Tali Mendelberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Some contemporary politicians try to mobilize racial attitudes by conveying implicit racial messages against their opponents—messages in which the racial reference is subtle but recognizable and which attack the opponent for alleged misdeeds. Although targeted politicians have tried a number of different strategies to respond to implicit racial appeals, little is known about the effectiveness of these strategies. Using two survey experiments, we answer the following question: Does calling the appeal “racial” work? That is, does it neutralize the negative effects on the attacked candidate? We find mixed evidence that it does. However, offering a credible justification for the attacked behavior works more consistently. We also test whether effects vary by candidate race. The results suggest that Black candidates’ rhetorical strategies are more constrained than identical White candidates’, but that White Americans are more open to credible arguments and justifications than the previous literature implies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)648-672
Number of pages25
JournalPolitical Communication
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • opinion
  • race


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