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Multidisciplinary Team Earns Grant to Study How People of Color Respond to Narratives of Rising Diversity

A multidisciplinary team led by Seth Goldman, honors associate professor in the Department of Communication and Commonwealth Honors College, has received a Presidential Authority Award from the Russell Sage Foundation (RSF) to expand its research of how people of color respond to narratives of rising diversity. Goldman, Tatishe Nteta, provost professor of political science, and Linda Tropp, professor of psychological and brain sciences, along with Professors Yuen Huo and Efren Perez from the University of California, Los Angeles are exploring how people of color respond to news coverage about population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau showing that non-Hispanic whites will become a numerical minority in the coming decades.

Seth Goldman, Tatishe Nteta and Linda Tropp
Seth Goldman, Tatishe Nteta and Linda Tropp

Earlier this year, the research team launched a three-wave nationally representative panel survey and systematic content analysis of news coverage related to census projections. The survey tracks changes in the perceptions, attitudes and identities of large samples of Asian, Black, Latino, multiracial and white Americans. The content analysis of news coverage about rising diversity will span the three waves of surveys. Together, these components will provide significant insight into the effects of exposure to narratives of rising diversity.

“This research will help us understand not only what people of color think and feel about demographic changes going on in the U.S., but how their views are changing over time,” Goldman says. To date, most public opinion research into the “majority-minority” narrative has been focused on the views of white Americans. “As is often the case, the perspectives of those currently with less power have received less attention,” he says. This research seeks to change that.

The RSF grant, totaling nearly $75,000, will enable a more comprehensive survey in the second wave of the project, fund the third wave and allow for the hiring of undergraduate research assistants to complete the content analysis. To support additional junior scholars of color, extend the panel and carry out confirmatory population-based experiments, the research team plans to submit a large, multi-year grant proposal to the National Science Foundation in hopes of continuing the research through the 2024 election. The project has received support from UMass through a Faculty Research Grant/Healey Endowment Grant, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Support Grant and Institute of Diversity Sciences Seed Grant.

For Goldman, there is also a broader goal to improve public opinion research to represent the population more accurately.

“If our goal is to understand what Americans think about not just topics related to diversity and the historic shifts in the nation’s demographics — but about any topic — then how we do survey research should change to accurately represent each racial and ethnic group,” he says.