Size, threat theory and contact: the contradiction explained. Different measurements of group size and their influence on social distance
Pol, J. van de
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With regard to the outgroup size, perceived threat theory and contact theory have conflicting hypotheses. The perceived threat theory predicts an increase in prejudice when the outgroup size is larger, because people feel more threatened. The contact theory, in contrast, predicts that a larger outgroup size leads to less prejudice since there is more intergroup contact. This study examines the possibility that this contradiction can be solved by making a distinction between perceived and actual group size. Using the first round data of the European Social Survey from 2002, the indirect effect of perceived as well as the actual immigrant group size via perceived threat and contact on social distance, is analyzed, both at the country level and at the region level in the Netherlands. Indirect effect analyses show for Europe that the effects of perceived and actual size on social distance are mediated by perceived threat as well as contact. In the Netherlands, the effect of perceived size is only mediated through perceived threat and the effect of actual size is only mediated through contact. The effects are mediated as I expected: perceived group size has a positive effect on social distance through perceived threat, and the actual group size has a negative effect through contact. The results have important political and scientific implications, which are discusses at the end.