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Honors Student Publishes Research in Flagship Psychology Journal

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CSUF honors student Alexa Vega Rivas ’22 (B.A. psychology) published her honors thesis study in the Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy journal, with the help of her mentor Ella Ben Hagai (psychology) and Christine R. Starr (University of Wisconsin, Madison)

In this research, the authors examine the role of the American dream and the narrative of America as a systematically racist country in predicting support for Donald Trump over Joe Biden. 

The American dream narrative posits that anyone who works hard can become successful in the U.S., whereas the systemic racism narrative argues that the U.S. is a racist country where minorities are systemically held back.

A survey-based study in Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy found that these narratives predict individuals’ support for the presidential candidacy of Trump or Biden, above and beyond more traditional political ideologies.

In a follow-up experiment in which participants were confronted with news clips of immigrant deaths at the border, white individuals decreased their belief in the American dream and increased their beliefs in systematic racism, while Latinx individuals increased their belief in the American dream and decreased their beliefs in systematic racism.

The researchers noted that the results may help to explain support for the Republican party among Latinx voters.

“For Latino immigrants, the narrative of the American dream offers a path toward assimilation to U.S. culture as well as financial stability. The American dream narrative becomes even more of a source of power and hope when faced with the sacrifices of immigrants crossing borders.

“A possible reason why white participants did not increase their agreement with the American dream but endorsed a view of the U.S. as a systemic racist country may be because of their psychological need to feel moral when they learn about the deaths of immigrants crossing the border.”

Read the study, “Immigrant’s Death at the Border: Do They Influence White and Latinx Americans’ Belief in the American Dream?” in the Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy journal.

Ella Ben Hagai