Political Behavior

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 517–545 | Cite as

Explicit Evidence on the Import of Implicit Attitudes: The IAT and Immigration Policy Judgments

  • Efrén O. PérezEmail author


The implicit association test (IAT) is increasingly used to detect automatic attitudes. Yet a fundamental question remains about this measure: How well can it predict individual judgments? Though studies find that IAT scores shape individual evaluations, these inquiries do not account for an array of well-validated, theoretically relevant variables, thus raising the challenge of omitted variable bias. For scholars using the IAT, the risk here is one of misattributing to implicit attitudes what can be better explained by alternate and rigorous self-reports of explicit constructs. This paper examines the IAT’s performance in the context of U.S. immigration politics. Using a representative web survey of adults, I demonstrate the IAT effectively captures implicit attitude toward Latino immigrants. Critically, I then show these attitudes substantively mold individual preferences for illegal and legal immigration policy, net of political ideology, socio-economic concerns, and well-established measures of intolerance toward immigrants, such as authoritarianism and ethnocentrism. Combined, these results suggest the IAT measures attitudes that are non-redundant and potent predictors of individual political judgments.


Implicit association test (IAT) Implicit attitudes Automaticity Immigration Latino immigrants 



I thank John Aldrich, Kerry Haynie, Vince Hutchings, and Paula McClain for their guidance on an early version of this manuscript. I am also grateful for the feedback and encouragement on this project provided by Amada Armenta, John Geer, Marc Hetherington, Natalie Masuoka, and Liz Zechmeister. Finally, I am particularly indebted to Cindy Kam, who patiently read and commented on multiple drafts of this article. Any remaining errors are, of course, my responsibility alone.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

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