In the U.S. political conservatives hold less favorable attitudes than liberals about immigration and immigrant groups. We hypothesized that one reason for this ideological gap is that conservatives are more likely to believe that immigrants are not as justifying of the American system as they should be. This hypothesis was tested in an online study (N = 404) with respect to four immigrant groups: Europeans, East Asians, Middle Easterners, and Latin Americans. Results revealed that conservatism was positively associated with (a) prescriptive beliefs that immigrants should engage in high levels of system justification, and (b) descriptive beliefs that immigrants—except for Middle Eastern immigrants—generally do endorse high levels of system justification. Importantly, conservatives perceived a bigger difference than liberals between prescriptive and descriptive beliefs about immigrants’ system justification levels, and this difference mediated the association between conservatism and attitudes and feelings about non-European (but not European) immigrants. These findings support a new “Perceived System Justification Deficit Model of Prejudice” in which expectations about others’ degree of ideological support for the societal status quo may contribute to out-group bias and perhaps even discrimination.
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