Political Behavior

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 231–253

Taking Threat Seriously: Prejudice, Principle, and Attitudes Toward Racial Policies

  • Christina Suthammanont
  • David A. M. Peterson
  • Chris T. Owens
  • Jan E. Leighley
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11109-009-9102-4

Cite this article as:
Suthammanont, C., Peterson, D.A.M., Owens, C.T. et al. Polit Behav (2010) 32: 231. doi:10.1007/s11109-009-9102-4


Drawing from group theories of race-related attitudes and electoral politics, we develop and test how anxiety influences the relative weight of prejudice as a determinant of individuals’ support for racial policies. We hypothesize that prejudice will more strongly influence the racial policy preferences of people who are feeling anxious than it will for people who are not. Using an experimental design we manipulate subjects’ levels of threat and find significant treatment effects, as hypothesized. We find that individuals’ racial policy attitudes are partially conditional on their affective states: individuals who feel anxious report less support for racial policies than those individuals who do not feel anxious, even when this threat is stimulated by non-racial content. More broadly, we conclude that affect is central to a better understanding of individuals’ political attitudes and behaviors.


Racial attitudesAnxietyThreatPrejudiceEmotionAffirmative action

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina Suthammanont
    • 1
  • David A. M. Peterson
    • 2
  • Chris T. Owens
    • 3
  • Jan E. Leighley
    • 4
  1. 1.Jersey CityUSA
  2. 2.Iowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  3. 3.Central Michigan UniversityMount PleasantUSA
  4. 4.University of ArizonaTucsonUSA