Collective Memory and Racial Attitudes: The Impact of Demographics on State Attitudes of Racial Progress



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This study examined how state demographics influence civil rights memory, racial difference attitudes, and attitudes about affirmative action. The demographic variables were age, race, income and poverty, education, and political ideology. Initially the study sought to examine the relationship between demographic variables by state and how they influence civil rights memory, and racial difference attitudes in order to better understand attitudes about affirmative action. Using a variety of surveys, scales created measured attitudes about civil rights success, the racial difference gap, and the role of affirmative action. There was a strong relationship between civil rights and racial difference, but less so with affirmative action. It also became clear that the relationship between the three concepts were more circular than linear since for example the existence of current affirmative action programs could influence perceptions about the success of the civil rights movement. All three of these attitude scales measured racial progress attitudes. These racial progress attitudes then became the dependent variable in the analysis. It was discovered that certain age cohorts and the ideology of the citizens of a state had the most influence on the state’s attitudes about racial progress. The more liberal the ideology of a state’s citizens the more likely it was to have the attitude that not much progress had been made. Interestingly, states with a larger population ages 85+ tended to feel that not that much progress had been made, while the cohort directly below them, ages 75-84, felt enough progress had been made. This suggests that the different experiences of these age cohorts during the civil rights movement and their experiences may have an influence on attitudes as the keepers of memory.



Race, Race attitudes, State, Civil rights, Affirmative action, Race progress