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UNDERSTANDING “NO SPECIAL FAVORS”: A Quantitative and Qualitative Mapping of the Meaning of Responses to the Racial Resentment Scale

  • Alicia D. Simmons (a1) and Lawrence D. Bobo (a2)

Abstract

Despite its predictive power, there is substantial debate about the attitudes measured by the racial resentment scale (RRS) and the relative weight of each. One group contends that the RRS is a valid measure of racial animus, foregrounding a basic psychological acrimony; some foreground social concerns about group status hierarchies; and yet others assert that the RRS is an invalid measure of racial enmity, instead primarily tapping non-racial principles and politics. We use a multimethod approach to address these debates, mapping the frames of reference respondents use in explaining their RRS answers. We find that the RRS fundamentally measures racial concerns and minimally taps non-racial politics. Although RRS responses reflect psychological acrimony, this orientation is substantially outweighed by social concerns about relative group position. Moreover, RRS responses substantially reflect beliefs about the relevance of race in the contemporary US and the sources of racial inequality, and values about individualism and fairness. We discuss how one of the most potent measures of present-day racial prejudice is rightly understood, and the implications for theory and research at the intersection of race and politics.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Associate Professor Alicia Simmons, Department of Sociology, Colgate University, 422 Alumni Hall, Hamilton, NY, 13346. E-mail: asimmons@colgate.edu

References

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