Both Personal and Public: Measuring Interethnic Marriage Attitudes Academic Article uri icon


  • 2015 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues. In this article, we examine a new survey measure called the "grid item" that we designed to assess personal willingness to engage in interethnic marriage, rather than approval of intergroup relations for an abstract other, while also mitigating social desirability pressures to respond in favor of intermarriage. Using three waves of 2006-2008 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) data (Ns range from 727 to 2,731 over waves and across survey items), we compare results from the grid item to those of several other common survey techniques. Our findings suggest that responses to the grid item, which separates personal from general willingness to intermarry, are less influenced by social desirability bias than the traditional survey item. In 2007, for example, 75% of Whites approved of Black-White intermarriage when asked using a traditional question, while only 49% of White males and 39% of White females expressed willingness to marry a Black person when asked with the grid item in 2008. We also show how approval of intermarriage for a generalized "other" is significantly greater than personal willingness to consider an interracial relationship, particularly among White women. We conclude that research on attitudes toward and engagement in interethnic marriage must distinguish personal from generalized attitudes. Measuring these types of attitudes accurately is important for guiding and assessing social policy on racial integration in schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces.

published proceedings

  • Journal of Social Issues

altmetric score

  • 0.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Campbell, M. E., & Herman, M. R.

citation count

  • 10

complete list of authors

  • Campbell, Mary E||Herman, Melissa R

publication date

  • December 2015