DP15691 Whistle the Racist Dogs: Political Campaigns and Police Stops

Author(s): Pauline Grosjean, Federico Masera, Hasin Yousaf
Publication Date: January 2021
Date Revised: January 2021
Keyword(s): Police stops, political campaign, racial prejudice
JEL(s): D72, J15, K42
Programme Areas: Public Economics, Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=15691

Did Trump radicalize xenophobes? Using data from nearly 12 million traffic stops, we show that the probability that a police officer stops a Black driver increases by 4.2% after a Trump rally during his 2015-2016 campaign. The effect is immediate, specific to Black drivers, lasts for up to 50 days after the rally, and is due to discretionary stops only. The effects are significantly larger in areas with more racist attitudes today, those that experienced more racial violence during the Jim Crow era, or those that relied more heavily on slavery. Results from a 2016 online experiment reveal how Trump's campaign speech specifically aggravated respondents' prejudice that Blacks are violent. We take this as evidence that although not explicitly anti-Black, Trump's campaign radicalized racial prejudice against Blacks -- a phenomenon known as dog-whistling-- and the expression of such prejudice in a critical and potentially violent dimension: police behavior.