This article examines intergroup contact effects in different political contexts. We expand on previous efforts of social psychologists by incorporating the messages of political parties as a contextual trigger of group membership awareness in contact situations. We argue that the focus among political parties on us-them categorizations heightens the awareness of group memberships. This focus in turn enhances the positive intergroup contact effect by stimulating majority members to perceive contacted persons as prototypical outgroup members. A multilevel analysis of 22 countries and almost 37,000 individuals confirms that the ability of intergroup contact to reduce antiforeigner sentiment increases when political parties focus intensively on immigration issues and cultural differences. Specifically, both workplace contact and interethnic friendship become more effective in reducing antiforeigner sentiment when intergroup relations are politicized. These findings demonstrate the need for widening the scope of the intergroup contact theory in order to cover macro-political conditions.
Social Psychology Quarterly, 2015, Vol 78, Issue 1, p. 49-76