Contemporary Racial Attitudes and Social Policy: News Coverage and the Affordable Care Act
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On March 23, 2010 the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama. This health care reform bill was intended to decrease the number of uninsured Americans and increase the quality and affordability of individuals’ health insurance. The Affordable Care Act, nicknamed “Obamacare,” is the most significant piece of redistributive legislation enacted in decades, and arguably, the President’s most consequential achievement yet. Despite its success in expanding health care access to the uninsured, the President’s bill has its fair share of detractors, and continues to lack majority support in public opinion polls. Opposition to the law is usually attributed to self-interest, partisanship and opinions about the size of government. However, many commentators have suggested that some measure of the hostility towards redistributive policies in the United States is motivated by racial antagonism. In this research paper, I begin with a review of the general proposition that racial attitudes shape support for social welfare policies. Then, I consider the specific hypothesis that racial attitudes influence views about the Affordable Care Act. Then, based on a case study of the Affordable Care Act, I investigate the extent to which the media contributes to the association between race and redistributive policies. Research suggests that the media depictions are especially important in reinforcing the association between redistributive policy and unworthy beneficiary populations.
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