The Role of Threat in Attitudes Toward Affirmative Action and Its Beneficiaries


  • 1The authors thank Cookie Stephan for her comments on an earlier version of this manuscript; Larry Gregory and Douglas Gillan for serving as statistical consultants; and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


This set of two studies employed the integrated threat theory to examine attitudes toward affirmative action (AA). The first study found that opposition to the policy of AA was predicted by realistic threats, symbolic threats, and personal relevance; while attitudes toward the beneficiaries of AA were predicted by three of the four threat variables (symbolic threats, intergroup anxiety, and negative stereotypes), and in-group identity. The second study replicated and expanded on the first study and found that the effects of several individual-difference variables (racism, anti-Black affect, and political conservatism) on opposition to AA were mediated by three of the threats in the integrated threat theory (realistic threats, symbolic threats, and negative stereotypes). The implications of the results are discussed.