Here’s something that bugs me time and time again: positive attitudes are not the same as tolerance. In my case, I look at attitudes towards immigrants. A person with positive attitudes likes immigrants. A person who is tolerant of immigrants, actually dislikes them, but accepts them and gets along with it. By definition tolerance involves disagreement, but then allowing the behaviour one does not agree with. If we mix the concepts, we’re really saying that nobody really likes immigrants, but there are some who accept the fact that they are here. That’s quite different from having positive attitudes.
Similarly, at the other end of the spectrum, a person with negative attitudes is not necessarily a racist. There are many reasons why a person dislikes or is at unease with immigrants — racism is just one of them.
And if you are interested in tolerance of immigrants as such, here are a couple of papers by Markus Freitag and Carolin Rapp that take the concept seriously.
Freitag, Markus, and Carolin Rapp. 2013. “Intolerance Toward Immigrants in Switzerland: Diminished Threat Through Social Contacts?” Swiss Political Science Review 19 (4): 425–46. doi:10.1111/spsr.12049.
———. 2015. “The Personal Foundations of Political Tolerance towards Immigrants.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 41 (3): 351–73. doi:10.1080/1369183X.2014.924847.
Rapp, Carolin, and Markus Freitag. 2014. “Teaching Tolerance? Associational Diversity and Tolerance Formation.” Political Studies, n/a – n/a. doi:10.1111/1467-9248.12142.
Rapp, Carolin. 2015. “More Diversity, Less Tolerance? The Effect of Type of Cultural Diversity on the Erosion of Tolerance in Swiss Municipalities.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 0 (0): 1–19. doi:10.1080/01419870.2015.1015582.