The symbolic racism 2000 scale

P. J. Henry, David O. Sears

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The concept of symbolic racism was originally proposed 30 years ago. Much research has been done and the society itself has changed, yet many of the original items measuring symbolic racism remain in use. The primary objective of this paper is to present and evaluate an updated scale of symbolic racism. The scale proves to be reliable and internally coherent. It has discriminant validity, being distinctively different from both older forms of racial attitudes and political conservatism, although with a base in both. It has predictive validity, explaining whites' racial policy preferences considerably better than do traditional racial attitudes or political predispositions. Evidence is presented of its usefulness for both college student and general adult population samples, as well as for minority populations. Data using this scale contradict several critiques of the symbolic racism construct (most of which are speculative rather than based on new data) concerning the consistency of its conceptualization and measurement, the coherence of the symbolic racism belief system, possible artifacts in its influence over whites' racial policy preferences (due to content overlap between the measures of independent and dependent variables), and its differentiation from nonracial conservatism and old-fashioned racism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-283
Number of pages31
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2002


  • Modern racism scale
  • New symbolic racism scale
  • Racial attitudes
  • Racial politics
  • Symbolic racism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science and International Relations


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