Ethnic Attitudes as a Function of Ethnic Presence

By Kalin, Rudolf | Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, July 1996 | Go to article overview

Ethnic Attitudes as a Function of Ethnic Presence

Kalin, Rudolf, Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science


Attitudes, assessed through comfort ratings, towards 12 ethnic and racial groups in Canada were measured in a national survey in 1991. The attitudes towards these groups were related to their ethnic presence in the survey respondents' Census Subdivision (equivalent to a municipality), as revealed in the 1986 Census. Separate analyses were carried out in Quebec and the rest of Canada. Small but statistically significant direct relationships were found between most ethnic attitudes and log 10 transformed ethnic presence. The relationships were statistically significant for Italians, Ukrainians, Germans, Jews and Portuguese in Quebec, as well as in the rest of Canada. In Quebec, the relationship was also significant for British. In the rest of Canada, but not in Quebec, further significant relationships were obtained for Arabs and French. Linear relationships were not statistically significant in Quebec, as well as the rest of Canada for Chinese, Native Indians, and West Indian Blacks. The direct relationships between ethnic attitudes and ethnic presence observed for most groups indicate that attitudes towards a particular group are more positive to the extent that the group is well represented in the geographic region of the respondent. The results were explained in terms of the contact and mere exposure hypotheses.

The relationship between the presence of an ethnic or racial group and the attitude held towards that group has been studied from different theoretical and methodological perspectives. One approach has been based on a model that regards intergroup competition for scarce resources, which may be economic or power related (LeVine and Campbell, 1972; Giles and Evans, 1986), to result in negative intergroup attitudes. This approach is also known as realistic conflict theory (Taylor and Moghaddam, 1994). The model has been used extensively in the U.S. to relate anti - black prejudice and discrimination to varying concentrations of blacks in a given region (Giles and Evans, 1986). The model assumes that competition between blacks and whites increases as the concentration of blacks gets higher. The possibility of a direct relationship between racial prejudice and concentration of blacks, attributable to the threat experienced by whites from blacks, has been recognized by Allport (1954). The results of several early investigations seemed to support this view. Pettigrew (1958, 1959) reported that anti - black attitudes are higher in areas in the U.S. where blacks are relatively more numerous. Giles (1977) found the same direct relationship between black concentration and hostility towards blacks, but this relationship was obtained in the Southern U.S. only, and not in the North. Blalock (1967) formulated a set of propositions for the increasing anti - black attitudes and discrimination accompanying increasing percentages of blacks. He postulated a non - linear relationship with increasing slope, based on the assumption that the degree of mobilization by whites to maintain power over blacks must be at an increasing rate with increasing presence of blacks. Giles and Evans (1986) also postulated a non - linear relationship, but with a decreasing, as opposed to an increasing slope, based on their analysis of racial intolerance, as measured in a 1972 national election study, and related to the percentage of the black population in the county of residence of the survey respondents. Curvilinear relationships, of an inverted U - shape, between racial intolerance and black concentration had also been reported by Bullock (1976) and Longshore (1982). These authors have argued that hostility towards blacks peaks between 40% and 60% concentration, because it is in this range that the power resources of the two racial groups are relatively evenly matched and the maintenance of white domination is most in doubt.

A second approach to the study of the relationship between ethnic presence and ethnic attitudes can be found in investigations stemming from the contact hypothesis (Allport, 1954; Amir, 1969, 1976; Cook, 1985; Hewstone and Brown, 1986). …

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