Get access

Racial Resentment and White Opposition to Race-Conscious Programs: Principles or Prejudice?


  • This research was supported by Grant SES-0318800 from the National Science Foundation. An earlier version of this article was presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association. We would like to thank Donald Kinder, Tali Mendelberg, Chris Parker, David Sears, and Jim Sidanius among others for fruitful discussions concerning this research.

Stanley Feldman is Professor of Political Science, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-4392 ( Leonie Huddy is Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for Survey Research, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-4392 (


White racial resentment is associated with opposition to a broad range of racial policies but it is unclear whether it derives from racial prejudice or stems from ideological principles. To resolve this ambiguity, we examined the impact of racial resentment on support for a college-scholarship program in which program beneficiaries' race and socioeconomic class was experimentally varied. The analyses yield a potentially troubling finding: racial resentment means different things to white liberals and conservatives. Among liberals, racial resentment conveys the political effects of racial prejudice, by predicting program support for black but not white students, and is better predicted by overt measures of racial prejudice than among conservatives. Among conservatives, racial resentment appears more ideological. It is closely tied to opposition to race-conscious programs regardless of recipient race and is only weakly tied to measures of overt prejudice. Racial resentment, therefore, is not a clear-cut measure of racial prejudice for all Americans.