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The Dynamics of Public Opinion on Ethnic Profiling After 9/11 : Results From a Survey Experiment
- Schildkraut, Deborah J.
- TheAmerican behavioral scientist 2009 v.53 no.1 pp. 61-79
- activists, immigration, public opinion, United States
- This study examines support for ethnic profiling in the United States as a counterterrorism tactic. It first compares support for counterterrorism profiling with support for profiling Black motorists. Then, it investigates whether the status of the profilee as a U.S. citizen of Arab or Middle Eastern appearance or as an immigrant alters either support for profiling or the determinants of that support. In both sets of analyses, the study investigates how competing ideas about the meaning of American identity shape opinions about profiling. Particular attention is paid to liberalism’s emphasis on the rights of citizenship and ethnoculturalism’s emphasis on the ascriptive boundaries of American identity. The results show that support for counterterrorism profiling is higher than support for profiling Black motorists, that people are more supportive of profiling immigrants than they are of profiling U.S. citizens, and that how people define what it means to be American is a powerful predictor of such support. The perspective promoted by the increasing number of radical activists on issues related to immigration—that being American means being a White European Christian—is the most powerful predictor of support for profiling. A liberal understanding of being American can offset some, but not all, of that support. The implications of these findings for future opinions and activism on post-9/11 issues are discussed.