International Society of Political Psychology

Conference Abstracts

Ideology and contact in post-colonial New Zealand: The role of interethnic friendships in the perpet

Nikhil Kumar Sengupta, The University of Auckland; Chris G. Sibley, University of Auckland

Conference: ISPP 2011
Affiliation: The University of Auckland
Research Area: Social inequality and social change

New Zealand's colonial heritage has precipitated stark inequality between the indigenous Maori and later European arrivals (Pakeha). Attempts to address this inequality have usually involved policies aimed at either redistributing material resources in favour of Maori, or at raising the profile of Maori culture within New Zealand. Recent evidence suggests that a large proportion of the variance in public support for such policies is explained by two ideologies that operate at the societal level: symbolic exclusion (SPE) and historical negation (HRN). SPE reflects a prescriptive belief that indigenous culture is irrelevant to representations of modern national identity; while HRN reflects a prescriptive belief that historical injustices are irrelevant to contemporary issues of resource distribution. Together, these ideologies serve to legitimise existing social inequality. The present study investigates the effect of one long-heralded means of improving intergroup relations – interethnic friendship – on levels of SPE and HRN, in a large nationally representative sample (N = 4788). We found that contact with outgroup friends has a negative effect on SPE for Pakeha and a positive effect for Maori. These opposing processes suggest that the net effect of intergroup friendships is the maintenance of stable aggregate levels of this ideology in society, over time. We also found that intergroup contact had no effect on HRN, suggesting that this is a particularly stubborn ideology, resistant to the benefits of contact. The implications of these findings for the contact hypothesis and for the prospects of social change towards equality in post-colonial nations, are discussed.