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Dangerous Frames

How Ideas about Race and Gender Shape Public Opinion

Dangerous Frames

How Ideas about Race and Gender Shape Public Opinion

In addition to their obvious roles in American politics, race and gender also work in hidden ways to profoundly influence the way we think—and vote—about a vast array of issues that don’t seem related to either category. As Nicholas Winter reveals in Dangerous Frames, politicians and leaders often frame these seemingly unrelated issues in ways that prime audiences to respond not to the policy at hand but instead to the way its presentation resonates with their deeply held beliefs about race and gender. Winter shows, for example, how official rhetoric about welfare and Social Security has tapped into white Americans’ racial biases to shape their opinions on both issues for the past two decades. Similarly, the way politicians presented health care reform in the 1990s divided Americans along the lines of their attitudes toward gender. Combining cognitive and political psychology with innovative empirical research, Dangerous Frames ultimatelyilluminates the emotional underpinnings of American politics. 

224 pages | 1 halftone, 16 line drawings, 24 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2008

Studies in Communication, Media, and Public Opinion

Political Science: American Government and Politics, Political Behavior and Public Opinion, Race and Politics


“This is a very exciting book, and one of the finest pieces of work in the area of politics, identity, and the mass media. It will have a broad impact on the fields of American political psychology, public opinion, political communication, and racial and gender attitudes.”

Nicholas Valentino, University of Texas at Austin

“This is an elegantly designed and smartly argued analysis of how race and gender work in our minds. The core claim—that how an issue is framed can have eye-catching effects on what we think and how we think about that issue—is given a rock-solid empirical underpinning. These findings are made more profound by the additional nuance that framing effects wield a power that extends beyond race and beyond policy issues that explicitly evoke racial and gender considerations. We have, many of us, always strongly suspected that the reach of race and gender in our political psyche is seemingly ubiquitous. Now we have a better sense of why that is the case.”

Taeku Lee, University of California, Berkeley

"[This book] examines the remarkably subtle ways in which citizens’ understandings of race and gender can change their attitutdes about various political issues—even those that ostensibly have little to do with race or gender. Winter offers a new theory and a considerable body of empirical evidence in support of this theory; scholars interested in race, gender, political communication, and public opinion will likely find both compelling."

Kevin Coe | Public Opinion Quarterly

"Dangerous Frames proves relevant not only to the field of political science but also to history, sociology, cognitive science and others. . . . An enlightening volume that reveals the continuing salience of race and gender to the American political psyche."—Guy Lancaster, Political Studies Review

Guy Lancaster | Political Studies Review

"Winter’s book makes a solid contribution to the literatures on framing, policy judgment, and race and gender, and it will be enjoyed by scholars interested in any or all of these topics."

Christopher M. Federico | Journal of Politics

"This is an excellent book that will stimulate discussion in a range of graduate courses. Winter does a superb job of engaging literatures on race, gender, politics, political psychology, and rhetoric and helping readers understand what this means for American democracy. . . . Frames, in short, are powerful and potentially dangerous."

Deana A. Rohlinger | American Journal of Sociology

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
1 Race, Gender, and Political Cognition
2 Political Rhetoric Meets Political Psychology: The Process of Group Implication
3 American Race and Gender Schemas
4 Group Implication in the Laboratory
5 Racialization of Welfare and Social Security
6 Gendering of Health Care Reform
7 Race and Gender Frames in American Politics
Appendix 1: Text of Experimental Articles
Appendix 2: Experimental Question Wording
Appendix 3: Measurement of Race and Gender Predispositions
Appendix 4: Race Is Race; Gender Is Gender
Appendix 5: Coefficients for Additional Opinion Models

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