College Students’ Racial Attitudes


  • John C. Brigham

    1. Florida State University
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      I am indebted to Fletcher Blanchard, Carrie Nance, Jeff Pfeifer, Chuck Ruby, Kate Scarmalis, and Tracey Swope, and two thoughtful reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts of this paper. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to John C. Brigham, Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1051.


Factor analyses of responses from white (N= 260) and black (N= 81) college students in two neighboring universities were utilized to develop contemporary measures of racial attitudes and of the degree of interracial contact experienced by blacks and by whites. Two sets of 112 attitudinal statements were utilized for the initial factor analyses, one set for black respondents and one for whites. About 60% of the items in the two sets were identical or the same except that the racial designations were reversed. Two 20-item racial attitude scales were derived from the factor analyses, one for blacks and one for whites. For students of each race, scores on the attitude measure showed a weak but significant relationship with a 16-item self-report scale of amount of interracial contact experienced, past and present. The relationship of these scales to earlier racial attitude measures (symbolic racism, modern racism, the MRAI, value rankings) were assessed. Second-order factor analyses suggested that the black students’ racial attitudes were more heterogeneous than were the white students’ racial attitudes. In general, black respondents tended to show more support than whites for programs designed to increase opportunities for, and recognition of, blacks. Black students also tended to endorse a greater degree of social distance between the races than white students did. The pattern of relationships between racial attitudes and sociopolitical issues differed for whites and blacks.