The Etiology of Individual-Targeted Intolerance: Group Stereotypes and Judgments of Individual Group Members

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Abstract

Virtually all scientific writing on attitudes toward political unorthodoxy in the United States focuses on group-targeted tolerance, or the question of whether Americans are willing to extend constitutional rights and freedoms to groups outside the political mainstream. Less is known about the etiology of individual-targeted tolerance, or the question of whether Americans are willing to tolerate the exercise of constitutional rights and freedoms by individuals who belong to unpopular groups. This paper examines the sources of attitudes toward individuals belonging to disliked and stereotyped political groups—in particular, the extent to which political tolerance judgments about gay and racist targets are influenced by attributes of those targets that are either consistent or inconsistent with group stereotypes. In line with expectations, an empirical analysis showed that individuals exhibiting attributes inconsistent with their group's stereotype (whether neutral with respect to stereotypic beliefs or directly challenging them) are tolerated more than those with stereotype-consistent attributes. Because members of political outgroups can control the timing of disclosing their group membership, they have the power to determine whether and to what extent stereotypic beliefs associated with their group will influence the reactions they provoke. This analysis confirms that the impact of stereotypic beliefs on tolerance varies as a function of timing of group membership revelation, although the direction of this interaction depends on the intensity of dislike for the group of which the individual target is a member.

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