Mitt Romney's Racist Appeals: How Race Was Played in the 2012 Presidential Election

Charlton D. McIlwain, Stephen M. Caliendo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article identifies a marked difference in the type of race-based appeals that dominated Barack Obama's presidential reelection contest in 2012 from his inaugural campaign in 2008. Racist appeals by Mitt Romney and the right in 2012 supplanted the racial appeals by Obama and the left in 2008. We focus our attention on a particularly salient form of racist appeal, one based on the long-standing stereotypes of black laziness and taking advantage. Specifically, we outline the historical underpinnings of these stereotypes. We then demonstrate how Romney and the right wove these underlying stereotypes into a seamless racist narrative-through political advertisements, online messaging, political speeches and debate statements-beginning with the Republican primary and continuing through the general election.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1157-1168
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number9
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • Barack Obama
  • Black stereotypes
  • Mitt Romney
  • implicit bias
  • laziness
  • taking advantage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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