Original Paper

Political Behavior

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 143-163

First online:

Decoding Prejudice Toward Hispanics: Group Cues and Public Reactions to Threatening Immigrant Behavior

  • Todd K. HartmanAffiliated withDepartment of Government and Justice Studies, Appalachian State University Email author 
  • , Benjamin J. NewmanAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, University of Connecticut
  • , C. Scott BellAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, Florida State University

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Consistent with theories of modern racism, we argue that white, non-Hispanic Americans have adopted a “coded,” race-neutral means of expressing prejudice toward Hispanic immigrants by citing specific behaviors that are deemed inappropriate—either because they are illegal or threatening in an economic or cultural manner. We present data from a series of nationally representative, survey-embedded experiments to tease out the distinct role that anti-Hispanic prejudice plays in shaping public opinion on immigration. Our results show that white Americans take significantly greater offense to transgressions such as being in the country illegally, “working under the table,” and rejecting symbols of American identity, when the perpetrating immigrant is Hispanic rather than White (or unspecified). In addition, we demonstrate that these ethnicity-based group differences in public reactions shape support for restrictive immigration policies. The findings from this article belie the claim of non-prejudice and race-neutrality avowed by many opponents of immigration.


Immigration Prejudice Hispanic Experiment