An Integrated Threat Theory of Prejudice
Walter G. Stephan Cookie White Stephan New Mexico State University
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." ( Dickens, 1950/ 1989, p. 1).
It seems to us that the same could be said of the state of race relations in our country at the present time.
On the "worst of times" side of the ledger is the fact that the great legislative initiatives that were designed to improve intergroup relations are becoming relics of the past. Certainly this has happened to school desegregation and the war on poverty, and it appears to be happening with affirmative action. Of the major legislative initiatives of the 1960's, only one stands unchallenged today. Americans are still strongly in favor of civil rights. White Americans generally agree with the premises underlying the other programs, but they increasingly object to the policies that are used to implement them. In a recent book, Kinder and Sanders ( 1996) present data indicating that attitudes toward government policies related to race are sharply divided by race. National opinion polls indicate that 90% of African-Americans favor racial preferences in hiring, but only 46% of Whites favor such policies. Similarly, 80% of African-Americans approve of the use of quotas in college admissions, but only 30% of Whites approve of quotas. On race-related public policies such as these, the divide between African-Americans and Whites is often as high as 50%. Furthermore, Kinder and Sanders believe the opinion gap between African- Americans and Whites is growing.
It seems that members of all racial and ethnic groups in America feel that their group is under siege. Whites now believe they are in the minority in the U.S. ( New York Times Poll, 1995). They are opposed to affirmative action and the use of quotas in higher education; their fear of crime has not abated even though crime itself has; and they are increasingly opposed to immigration and programs to help immi-