Social construction of target population: A quantitative application of Schneider and Ingram

General Information

Social construction of target population: A quantitative application of Schneider and Ingram
Richard Chard, Matthew MesselMatthew Messel, David Rogofsky and Kristi Scott
Publication Type
Conference paper
American Association of Behavioral and Social Sciences
In this paper, we compare the social construction of multiple target populations, in a quantitative application of Schneider & Ingram's (1993) seminal theory. We use data from the Understanding America Study, a nationally representative Internet panel. We consider individual views of the political power and social construction of target populations, specifically looking at populations that differ by sex, race and ethnicity, and urbanicity. Rather than asking individuals about how they feel about a particular population, we measure meta-constructions-the way in which individuals believe that power and construction are distributed across groups. We first chart population means for power and construction measures. We conclude that these means may be of limited use, and do not fall clearly within Schneider & Ingram's ideal-typical categories of target populations (advantaged, dependent, deviant, and contender). We then consider how views of gender, race, and urbanicity differ across individuals with different social characteristics. We find that more powerful groups-non-Hispanic White men, in particular-are more likely than other individuals to view fewer differences in the power and construction of certain target populations. That is, they view society as being more equal than women and racial and ethnic minority individuals do. In future research, we will expand on the implications of these findings, considering other characteristics (e.g., political affiliation) that predict meta-constructions.