Recent political theory in the areas of dialogic and deliberative democracy has placed particular emphasis on the importance of listening in contexts in which people disagree strongly, have competing (and potentially incompatible) interests, or are otherwise profoundly different. Despite this theoretical attention, there is very little empirical research directly examining the concept of listening – especially across lines of difference – in the political context. In this article we present two studies on race and political listening. Study 1 employs a large, diverse national U.S. adult sample and demonstrates that there are some differences – including race-related differences – in the general tendency toward political listening. Study 2, using a large, diverse national sample of U.S. adults, shifts emphasis from overall tendencies in listening during political talk to specific, situational listening with a particular discussion partner. Across three different (randomly assigned) race-related topics, using a method of imagined interactions to simulate such discussions, we find that Blacks (compared to Whites), individuals with fewer opposite-race relatives, and those who do not identify with the opposite race were significantly more likely to report it being “hard” to truly listen during discussion with a cross-race partner. Together, these findings highlight the importance of race itself, racial identity, experience with cross-race interactions, and race-related topics, to the study of political listening.
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