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Sniderman and Hagen: Race and inequality

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Sniderman and Hagen. 1985. Race and inequality.

In Brief

An exploratory study of the causes and effects of racial views.


  • Minimalist point of view: opinions are formed from very little knowledge, thus they are shallow, unstable, and often unconnected.
  • Maximalist point of view: the opposite. (1) The issue is salient and the public has strong feelings about it and (2) the issue is part of popular culture. E.g. we have maximalist points of view about race issues.
  • Moralism: A style of thought where someone/something else is blamed for a condition.
  • Individualism: A belief that anyone can succeed.


  • Individualists think blacks are poor because they don't apply themselves,
  • Fundamentalists blame it on religion (God intended it to be this way),
  • Historicists believe that blacks are worse off as a result of generations of slavery and discrimination, and
  • Progressives emphasize moralism (the wealthy whites keep the blacks down).


This is only a sampling of the study's many findings.

  • Education (from least to most): fundamentalists, individualists, progressives, historicists
  • Region: fundamentalists/individualists more likely to live in the South
  • Income: fundamentalists make the least, historicists make more
  • Individualists are most conservative
  • Fundamentalists and Progressives are accusatory toward society
  • Only individualists believe that blacks aren't hindered by race
  • Individualists aren't racist, since they have the same views about women and the poor
  • etc.