Masters Thesis

The role of intergroup threat in attitudes toward same-sex marriage and its beneficiaries

This study investigated the relationship between perceptions of threat and attitudes toward same-sex marriage from the framework of intergroup threat theory (ITT). Intergroup threat theory postulates that outgroup prejudice and discrimination are driven by threats to the ingroup. Threats in ITT include realistic threat (i.e., perceived impediments to ingroup welfare), symbolic threat (i.e., threats to the integrity of ingroup worldview), and intergroup anxiety. As a set, threats explained 84% of the variance in policy attitudes and 67% of the variance in beneficiary attitudes. Symbolic threat was most strongly tied to policy opposition, followed by intergroup anxiety and realistic threat. Prejudice toward beneficiaries of same-sex marriage was predicted by symbolic threat and intergroup anxiety, but not realistic threat. This work supported the prediction that stronger perceptions of intergroup threat are associated with greater resistance to same-sex marriage and more prejudiced attitudes toward its beneficiaries. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.