Advertisement

Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

The Complexity of Policy Preferences: Examining Self-interest, Group-Interest, and Race Consciousness Across Race and Political Ideology

Abstract

Research on attitudes toward racial policies has often been limited to a single racial group (e.g., either Whites or Blacks). These studies often focus on the role of self-interest, group-interest, and race consciousness, but this work has operationalized these concepts in different ways when studying White or Black respondents. Using data from a study in which Whites and Blacks living in Chicago were asked their attitudes toward affirmative action, we build on this body of research by using common measures of self-reported self-interest, group-interest, and race consciousness to predict support for affirmative action. We also examine whether the effects of these determinants are moderated by political ideology. We find that self-reported self-interest influences support for affirmative action among Black conservatives, but not among other respondents. Self-reported group-interest, however, has significant effects that differ between Blacks and Whites and across liberals, moderates, and conservatives. We also find that race consciousness affects respondents’ attitudes toward affirmative action, but that this effect is moderated by political ideology.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5

Notes

  1. 1.

    While this dichotomous variable does not allow us to measure varying levels of support or opposition, it requires less cognitive effort on behalf of respondents, thus reducing satisficing (Krosnick, 1991; Krosnick & Presser, 2010). This is particularly important in the case of the survey used here, where respondents were asked their opinion on a variety of political issues.

  2. 2.

    Results are confirmed when using the more detailed 5-item measure of political ideology. We chose to use a trichotomous measure because the 5-item measure had small cell counts (less than 20) in some categories.

  3. 3.

    Internal reliability for this index was similar for both Black (Cronbach’s alpha = .83) and White (Cronbach’s alpha = .80) respondents.

  4. 4.

    We include party identification as a control variable, even though it is correlated with political ideology, because respondents of different political ideologies are found across all political parties. Nonetheless, results remain consistent when party identification is not included as a control variable.

References

  1. Allison, R. (2011). Race, gender, and attitudes toward war in Chicago: An intersectional analysis. Sociological Forum,26(3), 668–691.

  2. Beaton, A., & Tougas, F. (2001). Reactions to affirmative action: group membership and social justice. Social Justice Research,14, 61–78.

  3. Bobo, L. (1998). Race, interests, and beliefs about affirmative action: Unanswered questions and new directions. American Behavior Scientist,41, 985–1003.

  4. Bobo, L., & Kluegel, J. (1993). Opposition to race-targeting: Self-interest, stratification ideology, or racial attitudes? American Sociological Review,58, 443–464.

  5. Boninger, D., Krosnick, J., & Berent, M. K. (1995). Origins of attitude importance: Self-interest, social identification, and value relevance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,68, 61–80.

  6. Branscombe, N. R., Schmitt, M. T., & Schiffhauer, K. (2007). Racial attitudes in response to thoughts of white privilege. European Journal of Social Psychology,37, 203–215.

  7. Bryant, B. E. (1975). Respondent selection in a time of changing household composition. Journal of Marketing Research,12(2), 129–135.

  8. Citrin, J., Green, D., Muste, C., & Wong, C. (1997). Public opinion toward immigration reform: The role of economic motivations. The Journal of Politics,59(3), 858–881.

  9. Crosby, F. J., Iyer, A., Clayton, S., & Downing, R. A. (2003). Affirmative action: Psychological data and the policy debates. American Psychologist, 58(2), 93–115.

  10. Crosby, F. J., Iyer, A., & Sincharoen, S. (2006). Understanding affirmative action. Annual Review of Psychology, 57, 585–611.

  11. Dawson, M. (2001). Black visions: The roots of contemporary African–American political ideologies. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

  12. Feldman, S., & Huddy, P. (2005). Racial resentment and white opposition to race-conscious programs: Principles or prejudice? American Journal of Political Science,49(1), 168–183.

  13. Goren, M. J., & Plaut, V. C. (2012). Identity form matters: White racial identity and attitudes toward diversity. Self and Identity,11, 237–254.

  14. Holbrook, A. L., Sterrett, D., Johnson, T. P., & Krysan, M. (2016). Racial disparities in political participation across issues: The role of issue-specific motivators. Political Behavior,38, 1–32.

  15. Iyer, A., Leach, C. W., & Crosby, F. J. (2003). White guilt and racial compensation: The benefits and limits of self-focus. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,29, 117–129.

  16. Jardina, A. (2014). Demise of dominance: Group threat and the new relevance of white identity for American politics. PhD Dissertation, Department of Political Science, University of Michigan.

  17. Jardina, A. (2019). White identity politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  18. Kinder, D. R., & Sanders, L. (1996). Divided by color: Racial politics and democratic ideals. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

  19. Kinder, D., & Sears, D. (1981). Prejudice and politics: Symbolic racism versus racial threats to the good life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,40, 414–431.

  20. Knowles, E. D., Lowery, B. S., Chow, R. M., & Unzueta, M. M. (2014). Deny, distance, or dismantle? How White Americans manage a privileged identity. Perspectives on Psychological Science,9(6), 594–609.

  21. Knowles, E. D., Lowery, B. S., & Shaumberg, R. (2010). Racial prejudice predicts opposition to Obama and his health care reform. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,46, 420–423.

  22. Knowles, E. D., Lowery, B. S., Shulman, E. P., & Schaumberg, R. L. (2013). Race, ideology, and the tea party: A longitudinal study. PLoS ONE,8(6), 1–11.

  23. Knowles, E. D., & Peng, K. (2005). White selves: Conceptualizing and measuring a dominant-group identity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,89(2), 223–241.

  24. Kravitz, D., & Platania, J. (1993). Attitudes and beliefs about affirmative action: Effects of target and of respondent sex and ethnicity. Journal of Applied Psychology,78(6), 928–938.

  25. Krosnick, J. A. (1991). Response strategies for coping with the cognitive demands of attitudes measures in surveys. Applied Cognitive Psychology,5, 213–236.

  26. Krosnick, J. A., & Presser, S. (2010). Question and questionnaire design. In P. V. Marsden & J. D. Wright (Eds.), Handbook of survey research (2nd ed., pp. 263–314). West Yorkshire: Emerald Group.

  27. Kuklinski, J., Sniderman, P., Knight, K., Piazza, T., Tetlock, P., Lawrence, G., et al. (1997). Racial prejudice and attitudes toward affirmative action. American Journal of Political Science,41(2), 402–419.

  28. Lavrakas, P.J., Benson, G., Blumberg, S., Buskirk, T., Cervantes, I.F., Christian, L., Dutwin, D., Fahimi, M. Feinberg, H., Guterbock, T., Keeter, S., Kelly, J., Kennedy, C., Peytchev, A., Piekarski, L, & Shuttles, C. (2017). Report from the AAPOR task force on the future of U.S. general population telephone survey research. American Association for Public Opinion Research. (https://www.aapor.org/getattachment/Education-Resources/Reports/Future-of-Telephone-Survey-Research-Report.pdf.aspx). Accessed August 12, 2018.

  29. Lowery, B., Unzueta, M. M., Knowles, E. D., & Goff, P. A. (2006). Concern for the in-group and opposition to affirmative action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,90(6), 961–974.

  30. Malka, A., & Lelkes, Y. (2010). More than ideology: Conservative-liberal identity and receptivity to political cues. Social Justice Research,23, 156–188.

  31. Piston, S. (2010). How explicitly racial prejudice Hurt Obama I the 2008 election. Political Behavior,32, 341–451.

  32. Powell, A. A., Branscombe, N. R., & Schmitt, M. T. (2005). Inequality as ingroup privilege or outgroup disadvantage: The impact of group focus on collective guilt and interracial attitudes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,31(4), 508–521.

  33. Rabinowitz, J., Sears, D., Sidanius, J., & Krosnick, J. (2009). Why do White Americans oppose race-targeted policies? Clarifying the impact of symbolic racism. Political Psychology,30(5), 805–828.

  34. Rudolph, T., & Evans, J. (2005). Political trust, ideology, and public support for government spending. American Journal of Political Science,49(3), 660–671.

  35. Schmermund, A., Sellers, R., Mueller, B., & Crosby, F. (2001). Attitudes toward affirmative action as a function of racial identity among African American college students. Political Psychology,22(4), 759–774.

  36. Sears, D., & Funk, C. (1990). Self-interest in Americans’ political opinions. In J. J. Mansbridge (Ed.), Beyond self-interest (pp. 147–170). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

  37. Sears, D., Lau, R. R., Tyler, T., & Allen, H., Jr. (1980). Self-interest vs. symbolic politics in policy attitudes and presidential voting. The American Political Science Review,74(3), 670–684.

  38. Sears, D., Van Laar, C., Carrillo, M., & Kosterman, R. (1997). Is it really racism? The origins of White Americans’ opposition to race-targeted policies. The Public Opinion Quarterly,61(1), 16–53.

  39. Sellers, R. M., Rowley, S., Chavous, T., Shelton, N., & Smith, M. (1997). Multidimensional inventory of black identity: Preliminary investigation of reliability and construct validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,73, 805–815.

  40. Shteynberg, G., Leslie, M., Knight, A., & Mayer, D. (2011). But affirmative action hurts us! Race-related beliefs shape perceptions of White disadvantage and policy unfairness. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes,115, 1–12.

  41. Sidanius, J., Pratto, F., & Bobo, L. (1996). Racism, conservatism, affirmative action, and intellectual sophistication: A matter of principled conservatism or group dominance? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,70(3), 476–490.

  42. Simien, E., & Clawson, R. (2004). The intersection of race and gender: An examination of Black Feminist consciousness, race consciousness, and policy attitudes. Social Science Quarterly,85(3), 793–810.

  43. Sniderman, P., & Carmines, E. (1997). Reaching beyond race. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  44. Sniderman, P., Crosby, G. C., & Howell, W. G. (2000). The politics of race. In D. Sears, J. Sidanius, & L. Bobo (Eds.), Racialized politics (pp. 236–279). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

  45. Son Hing, L. S., Bobocel, D. R., & Zanna, M. (2002). Meritocracy and opposition to affirmative action: Making concessions in the face of discrimination. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,83(3), 493–509.

  46. Steeh, C., & Krysan, M. (1996). The polls-trends: Affirmative action and the public, 1970–1995. Public Opinions Quarterly,60(1), 128–158.

  47. Sullivan, J., & Arbuthnot, K. (2009). The effects of Black identity on candidate evaluations: An exploratory study. Journal of Black Studies,40(2), 215–237.

  48. Tate, K. (2010). What’s going on? Political incorporation and the transformation of Black public opinion. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

  49. Tuch, S., & Hughes, M. (2011). Whites’ racial policy attitudes in the twenty-first century: The continuing significant of racial resentment. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science,63, 134–152.

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Maria Krysan for her feedback on previous versions of this paper.

Funding

Collection of data used in this study was funded by the Chicago Area Study Initiative at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Great Cities Institute.

Author information

Correspondence to William J. Scarborough.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent procedures for this study were approved by the authors’ institutional review board and carried through in the course of data collection.

Additional information

This paper used data from the 2008 Chicago Area Study (CAS) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and is dedicated in memory of Ingrid Graf, the 2008 CAS Project Coordinator.

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Scarborough, W.J., Holbrook, A.L. The Complexity of Policy Preferences: Examining Self-interest, Group-Interest, and Race Consciousness Across Race and Political Ideology. Soc Just Res 33, 110–135 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11211-019-00345-5

Download citation

Keywords

  • Racial politics
  • Race
  • Policy
  • Affirmative action
  • Public opinion