White Americans' opposition to affirmative action: Group interest and the harm to beneficiaries objection

Authors


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Laurie T. O'Brien, Department of Psychology, Tulane University, 2007 Percival Stern Hall, New Orleans, LA 70118, USA (e-mail: lobrien2@tulane.edu).

Abstract

We focused on a powerful objection to affirmative action – that affirmative action harms its intended beneficiaries by undermining their self-esteem. We tested whether White Americans would raise the harm to beneficiaries objection particularly when it is in their group interest. When led to believe that affirmative action harmed Whites, participants endorsed the harm to beneficiaries objection more than when led to believe that affirmative action did not harm Whites. Endorsement of a merit-based objection to affirmative action did not differ as a function of the policy's impact on Whites. White Americans used a concern for the intended beneficiaries of affirmative action in a way that seems to further the interest of their own group.

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