Study: Minorities often consider other races, especially whites, their competitors
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Whites are unlikely to view minorities as competition when it involves having political influence and obtaining good jobs, a new University of Michigan study shows.
Minorities, however, view whites as threatening in job competition and political influence, said Vincent Hutchings, an associate professor of political science and research associate professor at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR).
According to the study, most whites did not see their opportunities limited when competing against blacks, Latinos, Asians or Afro-Caribbeans.
Lead author Hutchings and his colleagues used the National Politics Study (NPS) at ISR to explain perceptions of inter-group conflict among various ethnic groups. The study asked more than 3,300 respondents about their political and racial attitudes and behavior based on perceptions of zero-sum terms, which are the gains or losses based on other participants.
One set of study questions involved how these five ethnic groups felt about the threat of competition from other races. They were worded as follows:
• "More good jobs for (another group) means fewer good jobs for people like me."
• "The more influence (other groups) have in politics the less influence people like me will have in politics."
About 20 percent of whites endorsed the view that more good jobs for other racial and ethnic groups would mean less for their group.
"Interestingly, no significant distinctions were made across groups for white respondents: blacks, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Afro-Caribbeans are all treated more or less the same when it comes to whites' beliefs about competition over jobs," the researchers noted.
Meanwhile, blacks were twice as likely as whites to agree that more good jobs for other racial groups came at their expense. Among blacks, the research shows, the most troublesome competitors were whites. About half of the Afro-Caribbean respondents indicated that more good jobs for whites meant fewer good jobs for them.
Latinos perceived relatively high levels of zero-sum conflict with other groups, especially Whites. Asians viewed whites as the most threatening regarding job competition.
For political competition, less than 20 percent of whites agreed that other racial groups represented a competitive threat to their group. About 57 percent of blacks and 53 percent of Latinos, however, identified whites as competitors to their racial group.
"Latinos also view the remaining groups as greater threats with respect to politics, but the increase is not as large as with whites," Hutchings said.
Asians were more concerned with whites in the political arena than in the job market, with 58 percent---the highest among all groups---agreeing with political influence for whites comes at the expense of Asians.
Individuals who express greater levels of group identification are more likely to view other groups as competitors. The exception was Afro-Caribbeans, whose level of group identification increased while their sense of competition with blacks and Latinos decreased, Hutchings said.
The contact hypothesis had little support. The racial make-up of one's neighborhood or friendship network had no effect on the perceptions of zero-sum competition.
In addition to Hutchings, the paper's authors were Cara Wong, an assistant professor of political science, James Jackson, ISR director, both of U-M, and Ronald Brown, associate professor of political science at Wayne State University.
The findings will be presented today (Aug. 31) at the annual American Political Science Association meeting in Philadelphia.
Funded by the National Science Foundation, U-M and the Carnegie Corporation, the National Politics Study at the U-M Institute for Social Research is the first known nationally representative multi-racial and multi-ethnic study of political and racial attitudes. From September 2004 to February 2005, a total of 3,339 telephone interviews were conducted with adults age 18 and older throughout the United States. These included 757 African Americans, 919 non-Hispanic whites, 404 Caribbean Blacks, 757 Hispanics and 503 Asian Americans.
"In addition to examining the perceptions and attitudes racial minority groups have about each other, the study also focuses on the views these groups have about whites," said Jackson, a principal investigator of the study with U-M researchers Hutchings and Wong, and Wayne Statue University researcher Brown.
Right after the 2006 elections, Jackson and colleagues plan to re-interview a representative sample of each group who participated in the original study to trace how feelings of political threat from other groups and new political realities are affecting voter turn-out, approval of various political candidates and political parties, and attitudes toward policy issues including immigration reform.
Contact: Jared Wadley