This presentation explores the political attitudes and participation of minority group members, specifically Latinos and African Americans, in American politics. In order to find a “ best fit” model for understanding attitudes and behaviors, I explore the merits of two social psychological theories: Social Identity Theory (SIT) and Social Dominance Theory (SDT). Both theories explore the dynamics of intergroup interactions. A basic tenet of Social Identity Theory (SIT) is that group membership contributes to self categorization and enhancement in ways that favor the in-group at the expense of the out-group. Social Dominance Theory (SDT) emphasizes the ways in which prejudice legitimizes and maintains existing social hierarchies.
After carefully examining the literature and studies relevant to both theories, I conclude that a combination of SIT and SDT is the most effective model for conceptualizing the participation and attitudes of minority groups in America. Whereas SDT is the most useful framework for conceptualizing some findings, such as efforts to level the political playing field, SIT is especially useful for understanding other findings, such as higher levels of trust shown towardcandidates who share a similar minority identity. Aspects of both SDT and SIT can explain the persistence of low voter turnouts, feelings of inefficacy, voting along racial lines, and support of racially charged policies.
Mark Gordon, ’06 Albuquerque, NM
Majors: Psychology, Politics, Spanish
Sponsor: Carolyn Zerbe Enns