Dengler, Susanne

Does it matter how we assess anti-Semitic attitudes? Perspectives from discourse theory and the sociological concept of social latency




Umfang & Ausstattung 16 S.
Erschienen 06/2010
ISSN & Heft-No. 1611-1818_66


Questionnaires designed to measure anti-Semitic prejudice usually present a number of statements to which participants can respond by choosing among response categories ranging from “disagree” to “agree.” But the value of this standard procedure should be reassessed for several reasons. First, from the perspective of discourse theory, presenting subjects with anti-Semitic statements could possibly reaffirm anti-Semitic stereotypes. Second, the sociological concept of communication latency suggests that respondents may practice “self-censorship,” giving responses they believe to be socially desirable or politically correct rather than expressing their real attitudes.
For these reasons, in addition to the standard procedure, we experimented with an alternative response format which does not ask participants whether they agree or disagree with statements, but instead instructs them to assume the role of a neutral expert and indicate how they would evaluate statements on a scale ranging from “prejudice” to “justifiable.”
Based on data from a pilot study with German and Austrian participants, the present paper compares the effects of these different procedures on study participants’ responses. To assess the different facets of anti-Semitism, we constructed three separate scales and applied Latent-Class-Analysis to each of two questionnaire versions. Our data analysis revealed some differences regarding the respective (latent) classes which did, however, not result from differences in the sociographic data because the participants did not differ significantly in this respect