Contact with the dominant group can increase opposition, among the disadvantaged, to social policies that would benefit their group. This effect can be explained in terms of contact promoting support for an ideology of meritocracy, which privileges the distribution of societal resources based on individual merit, rather than group-level disadvantage. We tested this ideological mechanism in a large, nationally representative sample of Māori (a disadvantaged group in New Zealand; N = 1,008). Positive intergroup contact with the dominant group (New Zealand Europeans) predicted increased opposition to a topical reparative policy (Māori ownership of the foreshore), and this was fully mediated by increased support for the ideology of meritocracy. Intergroup contact may enable the ideological legitimation of inequality among members of disadvantaged groups, engendering political attitudes that are detrimental to their group's interests. Contact with ingroup members had the opposite effect, increasing support for reparative policy by reducing subscription to meritocratic ideology.