Moral intuitions and attitudes towards affirmative action in college admissions

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Abstract

Affirmative action has long been a contentious issue in the United States. Using data from a 2021 national YouGov sample of 1125 U.S. adults, we are the first to examine the effect of moral intuitions on people's support for affirmative action in college admissions. We find that those with strong individualizing moral intuitions—a heightened general concern with avoiding harm and mistreatment of people—are more likely to support affirmative action. We find that its effect is mediated in large part by beliefs in the extent of systemic racism, as those with strong individualizing moral intuitions are more likely to also believe that systemic racism is pervasive, and also partly by low levels of racial resentment. Conversely, those with strong binding moral intuitions—a heightened concern with the cohesion of social groups—are less likely to support affirmative action. This effect is also mediated by belief in the extent of systemic racism and racial resentment, as those with strong binding moral intuitions are more likely to believe both that the system is fair and have higher levels of racial resentment. Our study suggests that future work should consider the role of moral intuitions in shaping people's views of contentious social policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102848
JournalSocial Science Research
Volume110
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science

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