Racial and Ethnic Differences National Contexts a Essay

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Racial and Ethnic Differences National Contexts

A sociologist analyze racial ethnic differences national contexts. For, U.S., tend race a . In order develop skill, select analyze a society demonstrating ethnic stratification conflict, including evidence prejudice discrimination.

In sociology, the predominant line of thought has favored new prejudice interpretations, arguing for the continuing relevance of prejudice and discrimination in forming political opinions and in generating discrimination. New prejudice theories have argued that modern prejudice is multidimensional, combining racial and ostensibly nonracial beliefs. Little known to most sociologists, recent psychological research provides a new approach to understanding the sources of racial discrimination that compliments ideas from the new prejudice literature (Livingston, 2002).

Research has demonstrated that implicit racial attitudes exist even for individuals who score low on measures of explicit racial prejudice and that these implicit beliefs influence judgments and perceptions. This literature provides one way to reconcile differences between continuing high rates of discrimination and the widespread support for the principle of equal treatment regardless of race because individuals can be sincerely non-prejudiced in their conscious thought but still have their judgments and actions influenced by subtle racial bias (Livingston, 2002). Indeed, implicit prejudice studies suggest that even among persons who hold a sincere belief in race blindness, images and depictions of members of racial groups learned beginning in childhood are influential on their thinking. Similar forms of implicit attitudes are also at play in nonracial situations, including implicit gender biases, and halo effect biases such as the positive attributions widely found to be of benefit toward persons regarded as good looking (Livingston, 2002).

Electoral System

A controversy exists in the U.S. over the perceived fairness of various electoral systems. Majority rule electoral systems are used most frequently in this country; these allow a voting majority as small as 51% to determine a disproportionate share of electoral outcomes. Recently, as the number of ethnic and racial minority groups and their proportional share of the population have increased (Census Bureau U.S., 2001), majority and minority groups have become more divided over the fairness of majority rule and alternative systems, such as proportional representation (Feather, 2002). Even when these groups concur about the fairness of various electoral systems, they frequently prefer different systems.

Electoral policy differences exist, as well, between groups that are not defined by race or ethnicity. For example, Republicans and Democrats differ in their preferences for retention of the electoral college vs. The popular vote (Issacharoff, Karlan, & Pildes, 2002), and urban and agricultural communities differ regarding zoning decision outcomes (Brockner & Wiesenfeld, 2000). To the extent that any group feels disenfranchised by an electoral system, alienation from the political process can be expected. Indeed, many commentators argue that a serious consequence of the controversy over electoral fairness is political disengagement (Brockner & Wiesenfeld, 2000).

Understanding the source of group differences in electoral policy preferences is facilitated by considering psychological theories of individual policy choices, and how these choices are influenced by the individual's membership in groups affected by the relevant policies (Issacharoff et al., 2002). Group membership may simply inject in-group favoritism into the individual's choices, as suggested by social identity theory (Brockner & Wiesenfeld, 2000), or it may affect beliefs, attitudes and perceptions that, in turn, influence choice. Indeed, social justice theories (Sommers & Ellsworth, 2000) suggest that preference differences result from group differences in perceived fairness, and emphasize the intervening role of social identification and beliefs.

Social judgment theories suggest that individuals' preferences arise from prior cues indexing their social identities and beliefs, cues about minority and majority groups' political behavior, and situational cues. Examining these different theories is important because of their different implications for how best to ameliorate group disenfranchisement feelings and low civic participation rates (Sommers & Ellsworth, 2000).

Within the social identity theory framework, a prescription for ameliorating in-group favoritism would be increasing identification with the superordinate group, for example, by increasing citizens' level of identification as Americans. Social justice theorists would prescribe increasing perceived procedural fairness by, for example, enacting policies with increased public discourse opportunities, increasing the system's integrity to prevent "irregularities," and improving relations between authorities and the public (Sommers & Ellsworth, 2000). Social judgment theory would suggest that, in choosing policy options, legislators should focus on issues that are not highlighted in social justice and social identity approaches, such as the history of discrimination and voter turnout among differing groups (Sommers & Ellsworth, 2000).

Social Identity

The effects of in-group favoritism are moderated by the importance of the resource and of in-group membership to the self-concept (Reynolds, Turner, & Haslam, 2000). In particular, the tendency to allocate resources to favor one's in-group intensifies as resource importance and in-group identification increase. It is contended that individuals' tendency to prefer electoral systems that maximize electoral outcomes for groups they identify with will be most pronounced when they have the most in common with the group. While African-American voters may favor electoral systems that maximize the election chances of a rural agricultural minority's preferred candidates because these voters identify with members of the agricultural community as minorities, their preference for that same system intensifies if the system maximizes the election chances of African-Americans' preferred candidates (Reynolds et al., 2000). However, (Sommers & Ellsworth, 2000)claim that when racial conflict is central to a dispute, white participants show less in-group bias than when racial conflict is not salient. Therefore, the predicted moderating effect of level of group identification on in-group favoritism in the evaluation of policy choices is attenuated under certain conditions.

Social Justice

Group differences in electoral policy preferences also may be accounted for using social justice theories. Unlike social identity theory, social justice theories suggest preferences depend on the motivation both to maximize resources for one's in-group and to be fair (Reynolds et al., 2000). The argument presented by (Feather, 2002) posits the fairness motive as the primary determinant of reactions to resource allocations.

Several justice studies have examined whether individuals' evaluations of policies that affect members of the same gender, race or ethnicity, or university are biased in favor of policies benefiting those groups (Issacharoff et al., 2002). While fairness perceptions repeatedly constitute the primary basis for policy preferences, individuals tend to prefer an unfair policy that benefits them and their groups over an equally unfair policy that does not benefit them (Issacharoff et al., 2002). Applied to the present context, the perceived unfairness of an electoral system should relate positively to an individual's dissatisfaction with that system and preference for alternative systems because of the fairness motive, but relate negatively to level of social identification with the beneficiaries of the unfairness because of the egocentric bias. Therefore, the effects of in-group favoritism on electoral system preferences are expected to be mediated completely by perceived unfairness (Reynolds et al., 2000).

Social Judgment

Social judgment theorists suggest that individuals' electoral system preferences arise from prior cues derived from their social identities and beliefs, cues about minority and majority groups' political behavior, and situational cues (Reynolds et al., 2000). Consistent with use of a mock juror decision paradigm, our electoral policy controversy analysis is focused on one subset of social judgment models-information-processing models (IPMs) of jurors' pre-deliberation process.

Legal decision making has been modeled as a sequence of stages: interpretation of judicial instructions; evaluation of evidence; comparison of the evidence to the relevant decision criteria; and choice of decision (Brockner & Wiesenfeld, 2000). Under this IPM approach, group differences in electoral policy preferences may occur at any stage or reflect the interdependence of stages. One limitation of this approach is that fairness refers to the fair-mindedness of the decision maker (Brockner & Wiesenfeld, 2000), not to objective evaluation of the case evidence. To overcome this limitation, IPMs must be extended to include fairness as an input into decisions, although not necessarily the most important input (Issacharoff et al., 2002).

The perceived unfairness concept can be incorporated in IPMs in at least three ways. First, IPMs typically emphasize the dependence of preference on perceived evidence strength. Perceived unfairness is expected to influence perceived evidence strength, but any effect of unfairness on preference is completely mediated by perceived evidence strength. For this reason, including unfairness, in addition to perceived strength, as a predictor of preference would not improve the prediction (Feather, 2002).

Social justice theories emphasizing the fundamental role of fairness suggest perceived unfairness should be better than evidence strength in predicting preference. Unlike the two forgoing proposals, fairness is regarded as an important determinant of electoral policy preferences, but not necessarily the most important. This follows from actual voting rights cases in which fairness, while a factor in the decisions, is trumped by other considerations (Issacharoff et al., 2002). Although a psychological analysis of the determinants of electoral policy group differences is relatively novel, numerous legal studies are concerned specifically with the electoral policy controversy (Livingston, 2002). This legal literature reveals a focus on; 0 the evidentiary factors considered in decisions to uphold or strike a contested electoral policy; (b) the importance of a…

Sources Used in Document:


Brockner, J., & Wiesenfeld, B. (2000). An integrative framework for explaining reactions to decisions: Interactive effects of outcomes and procedures. Psychological Bulletin, 120(1), 189-208.

Census Bureau U.S. (2001). (2001). The Hispanic population: 1990-2000 growth and change., . Washington DC:: Guzmin.

Feather, N.T. (2002). Values and value dilemmas in relation to judgments concerning outcomes of an industrial conflict. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,, 28(2), 446-459.

Issacharoff, S., Karlan, P.S., & Pildes, R.H. (2002). The law of democracy: Legal structure of the political process (Rev. 2nd ed.). . New York: Foundation Press.

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