The Better Angels of Our Nature: How the Antiprejudice Norm Affects Policy and Party Preferences in Great Britain and Germany

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Existing research on public opinion related to race and immigration politics emphasizes the role of prejudice or bias against minority groups. We argue that the social norm against prejudice, and individual motivations to comply with it, are crucial elements omitted from prior analyses. In contemporary Western societies, most citizens receive strong signals that prejudice is not normatively acceptable. We demonstrate that many majority-group individuals have internalized a motivation to control prejudiced thoughts and actions and that this motivation influences their political behavior in predictable ways. We introduce measures capturing this motivation, develop hypotheses about its influence, and test these hypotheses in three separate experimental and nonexperimental survey studies conducted in Britain and Germany. Our findings support a dual-process model of political behavior suggesting that while many voters harbor negative stereotypes, they also-particularly when certain contextual signals are present-strive to act in accordance with the "better angels of their natures." ©2013, Midwest Political Science Association.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)841-857
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013

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