Using social contact and social identity theories, I seek to show how attitudes of mainstream American society toward individuals of Middle-Eastern descent (Arabs) have changed eight years after September 11, 2001 when compared to similar data from shortly after the terrorist attacks. I use data gathered from nationally representative opinion polls and the theoretical constructs of social contact theory and social identity theory to understand how attitudes have changed in the eight-year period. I first provide a firm grounding in the social contact and social identity literature, analyze the race/attitudinal data, and finally show how both social identity and social contact theories are useful when looking at attitudes toward Arabs post September 11, 2001. Initially, I expect that an inverse reaction to social contact will be observed leading to negative attitudes. At the same time, I expect that shared social identity will increase over time and positively affect attitudes toward Arabs. The results suggest that greater contact does not necessarily lead to positive attitudes about an out-group (in this case the Arab minority). In addition, the results show social identity's ability to affect attitudes decreases over time. I conclude that the ability to change attitudes is dependent on an individual developing greater understanding and knowledge of the out-group thereby expanding social identity. I argue that this is a useful method to decrease out-group prejudice. I conclude the two theories are useful as they both can inform public policy campaigns and public perception.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Sociology



Date Submitted


Document Type





contact theory, social identity theory, prejudice, race, ethnicity, September 11, attitudes



Included in

Sociology Commons