A Matter of Principle or Self-Interest? Examining Support for Affirmative Action

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Merrells, Kristofer




Recent polls have found that support for affirmative action in the United States is divided largely along political lines, with liberals generally supporting it, and conservatives generally opposing it. However, with conservatives being overwhelmingly White, and affirmative action policies generally designed to benefit racial and ethnic minorities, it is unknown how much of peoples’ support is motivated by political principle, or group-level self-interest. I attempted to empirically test this question by subjecting participants to one of four affirmative action policies, differing only on the proposed beneficiary (viz. liberal, conservative, Black, White), and measuring the influence of both principle (via political affiliation) and self-interest (via group congruence). I hypothesized that people would reveal themselves to be motivated by self-interest, with potential moderators (viz. threat and strength of group identification). I found that both principle and self-interest predict support for affirmative action. Implications for affirmative action policies are discussed.


Psychology - Social




Carleton University

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