A randomized-response investigation of the education effect in attitudes towards foreigners
Article first published online: 5 DEC 2008
Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
European Journal of Social Psychology
Volume 39, Issue 6, pages 920–931, October 2009
How to Cite
Ostapczuk, M., Musch, J. and Moshagen, M. (2009), A randomized-response investigation of the education effect in attitudes towards foreigners. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 39: 920–931. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.588
- Issue published online: 19 AUG 2009
- Article first published online: 5 DEC 2008
- Manuscript Accepted: 8 OCT 2008
- Manuscript Received: 3 APR 2008
- Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation). Grant Number: MU 2674/1-1
While negative correlations have often been found between a respondent's education and his attitudes towards foreigners, the reasons for this education effect are still under debate. We examined the hypothesis that the highly educated may not be genuinely less xenophobic, but simply more prone to give socially desirable, xenophile answers in attitude questionnaires. We therefore compared the attitudes of respondents who were either questioned directly or using a cheating detection extension of the randomized-response technique (RRT). The latter is supposed to yield more honest answers to sensitive questions by experimentally offering the interviewee a higher degree of confidentiality. Under direct questioning conditions, we replicated the education effect; 75% of the highly educated expressed xenophile attitudes, as opposed to only 55% of the less educated. Under randomized-response conditions, we obtained significantly reduced estimates of 53% for the proportion of xenophiles among the highly educated, and 24% among the less educated, indicating a strong distortion of self-reported attitudes towards foreigners in both groups. However, a significant proportion of participants disobeyed the RRT instructions regardless of education. Because the education effect was found even after controlling for social desirability, it seems to be a genuine effect, rather than an artefact of a differential response bias. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.