What does it mean to be a Republican?
During last week's Republican National Convention, normally a time when the party puts its best foot forward, we conducted a pilot research project centered around visual responses. Using a platform called GlimpzIt, we asked independent voters ages 18-61 this question: What does it mean to be a Republican? Our respondents, who were primarily women (75 percent) with an average age of 35, uploaded images (called "glimpzes") to visually demonstrate what they thought about Republicans. They included a short caption to explain their choice. These images were evaluated by a panel of peers to see which ones resonated with them. Our pilot was small -- a total of 165 respondents and peer evaluators, but the results are alarming, if not surprising.
It should come as no surprise to anyone watching any part of the Republican National Convention that the message wasn't one of hope and opportunity. It was gloom and doom and that's what a young woman from Maryland now sees when she thinks of Republicans. Oh, and she added: archaic, puritanical in nature, and lacking in empathy. Nice trifecta.
It isn't news that Republicans have been viewed as the party of the wealthy and that remains a perception among this group:
Republicans are for the wealthy.
Or that Republicans are the party of "old, white men." I hear that all the time in focus groups. No, what is disturbing and new is that now the words "racist" and "bigot" appear along with wealthy and old, white men. Although Republicans aren't seen as the progressive, contemporary party, being perceived as overtly racist is a new development.
The images and captions respondents uploaded painted a picture of a party that was intolerant of people with different beliefs, with respondents going so far as to say that Republicans are racists or bigots.
Donald Trump's statements on banning Muslims or building a wall to keep people out have infiltrated perceptions of the Republican brand. How much damage this has done to the party has yet to be seen, but the entry of "racist" into the Republican brand word cloud is a depressing and alarming development.
This post originally appeared on Medium.