Context: Although research has begun to examine perceptions of being on the losing side of politics, it has been confined to electoral politics. The context of health disparities, and particularly the opioid crisis, offers a case to explore whether frames that emphasize racial disadvantage activate loser perceptions and the political consequences of such beliefs.
Methods: White survey participants (N = 1,549) were randomized into three groups: a control which saw no news article, or one of two treatment groups which saw a news article about the opioid crisis framed to emphasize either the absolute rates of opioid mortality among whites or the comparative rates of opioid mortality among whites compared to blacks.
Findings: Among control group participants, perceiving oneself a political loser was unrelated to attitudes about addressing opioids, whereas those who perceived whites to be on the losing side of public health had a less empathetic response to the opioid crisis. The comparative frame led to greater beliefs that whites are on the losing side of public health, whereas the absolute frame led to more empathetic policy opinions.
Conclusions: Perceptions that one's racial group has lost ground in the public health context could have political consequences that future research should explore.