WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – A new study has found that the idea of racial minority groups becoming the majority in the United States is causing white Americans to lean more toward the conservative side of the political spectrum.

Researchers looked at a national Pew Research survey examining data from 369 white participants who had described themselves as politically unaffiliated. They found that study participants who read that California is a majority-minority state were leaning more towards the Republican Party. Researchers suggested that with diversity increasing in the U.S., a wider partisan divide could occur with more white Americans supporting conservative policies.

“We wondered how this kind of ‘us-vs-them’ framing would be perceived by members of the current majority,” Maureen Craig, a psychological scientist from Northwestern University, said to Science Daily

In addition to that, study participants rated their ideological attitudes as more conservative than participants who simply read that the Hispanic population had become equal in size to the black population in the U.S., Science Daily reported. Despite labeling themselves as politically independent, study participants’ political attitudes moved to the right.

“The materials we used to elicit these responses were taken from actual Census Bureau press releases and media sources reporting on the ‘majority-minority’ shift,” Craig told Science Daily. “These findings may be particularly relevant to media and government agencies who are currently reporting on these racial shifts, presumably without awareness of these potential threat effects.”

Craig and Jennifer Richeson, a psychological scientist also at Northwestern University, began to notice an increase in media attention concerning the predictions being made about the “majority-minority” population shift that would happen in 2050 or sooner.

The researchers explained to Science Daily that the possibility of a majority-minority shift could threaten white American’s perceived status in the long term, which makes them more likely to support conservative policies in the short term.

The study was published in the journal Psychological Science.

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