The Changing Face of Nations: Are Majority Groups Threatened by an Ethnic Shift?

Lescelius, J. C. (Victoria University of Wellington), Milfont, T. L. (Victoria University of Wellington)

By the mid to late 21st century, majority groups of European descent will account for less than half the total populations in many Western countries. This projected ethnic shift means majority groups will become minorities, expressing a shift from “majority-minority” to “minority-majority” nations. We conducted three experiments (N = 520) to examine how anticipation of future ethnic shifts affects current intergroup processes in New Zealand by investigating how present-day majority group members (New Zealand Europeans) perceive and react to a projected minority-majority future. Participants exposed to a minority-majority future expressed greater feelings of in-group sympathy than those presented only with present-day demographic information. Contrary to findings of North American research, the minority-majority future was not associated with negative attitudes towards migrants or greater in-group serving biases. When comparing two projected future conditions, participants in the minority-majority future condition expressed greater belief that the nation would possess more positive characteristics than those in the New Zealand European-majority future condition. Experimental conditions also moderated the relationship between future expectations and present-day attitudes and action intentions, with participants in the minority-majority condition more or less likely to engage in present-day pro-diversity actions or perceive diversity as threatening. Theoretical implications for intergroup relations are discussed.

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Culture and Attitudes