Us Against Them: Part 3, Generalized Prejudice

As noted in the previous posts, in Us Against Them Kinder and Kam describe ethnocentrism as generalized prejudice. We tend to think prejudice is group specific, and it can be. For example, one might have very negative feelings about a particular out-group (e.g., Whites, Blacks, gays, Muslims, etc.). However, the research on ethnocentrism has revealed that prejudices tend to cluster together. Thus, if we hear a person make a comment about blacks on welfare we can make a good guess about where this person stands on gay marriage or immigration reform.

Is there any evidence for this notion of generalized prejudice? In Chapter 3 of Us Against Them Kinder and Kam present research that supports this conception of ethnocentrism.

Kinder and Kam measure ethnocentrism by examining the relative roles of in-group favoritism and out-group denigration. They accomplish this by examining how various groups apply favorable or unfavorable stereotypes to both in-groups and out-groups. For example, Kinder and Kam share data on how various ethnic groups apply the adjectives lazy versus hardworking across ethnic groups, including their own. So, for example, Whites are asked how lazy versus hardworking Whites are as well as Blacks and Hispanics.

Not surprisingly, people tend to see their in-group as more hardworking relative to the out-groups. Whites see Whites as more hardworking than Blacks or Hispanics. Blacks, by contrast, see Blacks as more hardworking than Whites or Hispanics. And so on. Interestingly, Whites tend to be the most ethnocentric of all the ethnic groups. Overall, these trends support the view that ethnocentrism is generalized prejudice, a prejudice produced by seeing the in-group in a more favorable light relative to out-groups.

Kinder and Kam go on to examine some of the correlates of ethnocentrism. How is ethnocentrism related to political ideology or views regarding limited government? How is ethnocentrism related to education?

Overall, Kinder and Kam show evidence that ethnocentrism, across ethnic groups, is generally uncorrelated to various political positions (e.g., party identification, views on limited government). Among Whites there are some slight trends. Ethnocentrism is, albeit weakly, correlated with political conservatism, a distaste for egalitarianism (e.g., social welfare to produce "fairness"), social distrust, and a desire for a more limited government. Generally, however, ethnocentrism is a force in American life that is distinct from other, more commonly discussed, political variables. Consequently, ethnocentrism needs to be examined as a political force in its own right if we are going to get a true and accurate sense of the dynamics involved in American policy debates.

Finally, ethnocentrism declines with increasing education. The most important factor appears to be college education. As Kinder and Kam summarize the data: "Based on these results, it would seem that education, and especially the experience associated with higher education, build tolerance and erode ethnocentrism."

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10 thoughts on “Us Against Them: Part 3, Generalized Prejudice”

  1. "Interestingly, Whites tend to be the most ethnocentric of all the ethnic groups."

    - Perhaps the most laughable and unsupported sentence in sea of them.

  2. Is there an implicit assumption here that all ethnic groups are equally hard-working, and that any opinion to the contrary is "prejudiced"? I attend a good college with a disproportionate number of Asians and Jews (relative to the general American population), and don't think it's necessarily prejudiced to believe that Asians (or at least Asian-Americans) and Jews are more hard-working than other groups. But, if that is the case, then thinking that certain groups are less hard-working isn't necessarily prejudiced, either.

  3. Using flawed methodology to achieve the result they were aiming for, no doubt.

  4. Their research, speaking as a social scientist, looks strong, unbiased and has been published in peer reviewed journals. Regardless, the data they use comes from publicly accessible data sets so their results can be easily replicated by anyone who cares to.

  5. The problem likely isn't in how they massage the data, if they do, it's how they define ethnocentrism and the characteristics that play into it. Potentially, what they include as an ethnocentric trait is arguable.

  6. iowa - What is your evidence that the methodology is flawed and the findings are "laughable and unsupported"? You appear only to disagree with it without offering a hint of evidence of your own to the contrary.

  7. Well, I would say that I've been pretty clear that it's my suspicion that the methodology is flawed, and I've given examples of that. Anecdotally, I think that a rational view of the world around us would lead to a conclusion opposite that of the authors.

  8. Thus, I think I can say that I base my "laughable and unsupported" statement on (a) readily accessible facts of the world around us and (b) the political framework in which the authors appear to be operating. You're free to disagree, however.

  9. Finally, if you doubt the political framework in which this research was conducted, take a brief look at this blog's "Part IV" entry. That should leave no doubt. As liberals typically prefer to do, instead of dealing with an intellectual discussion of various issues on their merits, they prefer to paint those who would oppose those policies as suffering from some prejudice or defect (racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.). They do so because to deal with a particular issue on the merits (logic and reason) typically leads to them losing the debate. Thus, the tried and true fallback is employed.

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