Winning Proposal to the Pierce Scholar's Fund: 2016 Competition

Project Title: Measuring the Impact of Ethnocentrism on Political Behavior

Faculty Sponsors: Nick Valentino

Graduate Student: James Newburg

Project Description

To adjudicate conflicting results on ethnocentrism, we propose to construct and validate a generalized ethnocentrism scale that does not contain references to specific groups in society. Such a scale would effectively address the main theoretical criticism of current ethnocentrism research: that commonly used measurements of ethnocentrism are simply weak instruments measuring attitudes toward salient social out-groups. Should we successfully validate a generalized ethnocentrism scale, we would then examine relationships between ethnocentrism and political behavior.

Our supposition is that ethnocentrism is a generalized, stable predisposition that powerfully shapes the way people view the social and political world. We suspect that our validation of a context-neutral measure will be successful, and that this measure will predict various aspects of political behavior. Specifically, we expect a generalized measure of ethnocentrism to influence political attitudes such as presidential candidate evaluations, race-based social policies, and immigration policies. We expect that individuals high in ethnocentrism are more likely to hold political views consistent with these beliefs, mediated through attitudes toward salient social groups. Returning to the example of immigration, we would expect ethnocentric non-Hispanics to support restrictive immigration policy, but for that effect to be mediated through their evaluations of Hispanics. Further, we would also expect ethnocentric Hispanics to oppose restrictive immigration policy, with a similar mediational pathway through in-group attitudes.