Skip to main content

How Intergroup Contact Can Change Policy Views (WP-21-16)

James Druckman and Elizabeth Sharrow

Can interpersonal contact across groups change policy views? While a vast literature explores the conditions under which interpersonal contact can reduce prejudice, little work studies whether it also can alter opinions about public policy. The authors argue that individuals from advantaged groups come to support policies that benefit a marginalized group when a) they value equality, b) they learn of the plight of the marginalized group via intergroup contact, and c) they trust the policy-making institution charged with governance capacity. This latter condition allays fears that policies will undermine the interests of the advantaged group. Druckman and Sharrow test their hypotheses in the context of interactions among college student-athletes. They use both observational and experimental data to show contact can change policy views in the presence of institutional trust. The results expand prior work on interpersonal contact to look directly at public policy and accentuate how institutions shape the outcome of interactions.

James Druckman, Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science and IPR fellow, Northwestern University

Elizabeth Sharrow, Associate Professor of Public Policy & History, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Download PDF