The Stranger Across the Kill Floor or The Friend You Choose: Social Contact Effects on Immigration Related Policies In Rural America
Hanson, Brian R.
University of Kansas
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This paper seeks to reconcile the effects of the racial threat hypothesis and social contact theory. While seemingly contradictory and competing, this paper demonstrates that the influence of each may vary by context. The social contact theory posits that increased social contact with different ethnic and/or racial groups tends to lead to more tolerant opinions of those groups. The racial threat hypothesis argues the opposite in that increased contact and proximity may lead to increased competition and hostility between groups that can be economically or culturally-based. The results of this research show that the effects of the two theories are not mutually exclusive. Non-Hispanic whites who sense a threat from Hispanics to one's economic well-being, and political resources and power are significantly more likely to oppose policies that lend aid to immigrant students. This effect may be increased among these individuals by workplace contact with groups they perceive as being a threat. While the social contact of friendship with Latinos is shown to significantly reduce perceptions of racial threat among rural whites, the forced contact of the workplace tends to influence their attitudes in the opposite and negative direction. This research also found that a difference in how social contact interacts with ideology. Workplace contact with Latinos does little to change perceptions of racial threat or support for English-only laws among those who are more conservative, and already more likely to feel threatened and be supportive of such laws. However, workplace contact is shown to increase such perceptions and support among those who identify as more liberal. When it comes to the effects of social contact, context matters.
- Political Science Dissertations and Theses 
- Theses 
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