This review examines the intersection of prejudice, politics, and public opinion. It focuses specifically on research that seeks to understand the sources of attitudes toward policies intended to benefit African Americans and other racial/ethnic minorities by ensuring equal treatment, providing opportunity enhancement, or striving for equal outcomes. After a review of the main patterns of white and African-American public opinion on this topic, three central theoretical interpretations of racial policy attitudes—new racism, politics and nonracial principles and values, and group conflict theories—are described and compared. The empirical evidence for each approach is assessed. Finally, directions of research that pursue a more complex view of racial policy attitudes are introduced. These include efforts to incorporate insights across theoretical domains as well as correcting an overemphasis on cognitive issues to the exclusion of affect. In addition, gaps in our understanding of “non-white” attitudes, nonprejudiced respondents, nonracial policies, and non-Americans are identified as potentially fertile ground for future research aimed at understanding the complexity of racial policy attitudes and what these can reveal about contemporary US race relations.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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