Attitudes and Beliefs about Affirmative Action: Effects of Target and Respondent Sex and ethnicity

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Published in: Journal of Applied Psychology, Volume 78, Number 6, 1993.


349 undergraduates at a multicultural metropolitan university were surveyed to assess (1) beliefs and evaluations of potential components of affirmative action plans (AAPs), (2) correlations between attitudes toward affirmative action and such beliefs and evaluations, (3) differences in reactions as a function of the AAP target (minorities, women, or people with disabilities), and (4) gender and ethnic differences in the results of 1, 2, and 3. Many beliefs about affirmative action were incorrect. Recruitment, training, and attention to applicant qualifications were favored, whereas discrimination, quotas, and preferential treatment were opposed. Opposition to potential AAP components was directly related to the weight given to demographic status. Responses varied depending on respondent gender and ethnicity. Conflict associated with affirmative action can be minimized by eliminating certain misperceptions about AAPs and by incorporating positively evaluated components.