Surveilling Threat: the Roles of Ideology and Threat Perceptions in Support for Islamophobic Policy

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Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy

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After the attacks on 9/11, Muslims in the United States were the targets of increased surveillance by law enforcement on the basis of their religious identity, often resulting in mistreatment and unjustified imprisonment. The current study examined ideologies that are associated with Islamophobia and support for police surveillance of Muslims, as well as specific types of intergroup threat perceptions that mediate these relationships. Participants (N = 603) completed a survey measuring Social Dominance Orientation (SDO), Right-wing Authoritarianism (RWA), Nationalism, intergroup threat perceptions, Islamophobia, and support for an anti-Muslim police surveillance policy. Results demonstrated that higher levels of SDO, RWA, and Nationalism were each independently associated with Islamophobia through increased realistic, symbolic, and terroristic threat perceptions. Further, higher levels of Islamophobia mediated the relationships between each type of perceived threat and support for a Muslim surveillance policy. This comprehensive model of anti-Muslim bias highlights the relative, independent effects of ideology and threat perceptions on anti-Muslim prejudice and discrimination. Findings hold implications for the use of threat-based language and stereotyping in policy decisions, particularly among those high in SDO, RWA, and Nationalism.


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