Some data on racial attitudes of whites

Lynn Vavreck writes:

I just heard the Carter interview about Obama and racism. Simon Jackman and I have a bit of evidence on this from the Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project. These are data from white, registered voters nationwide about stereotypes of different groups. You can see, roughly a third of the people think blacks are inferior to whites on lazy v. hardworking and similarly on intelligent/unintelligent:


[click for larger version of the table]

This, of course, doesn’t answer the question about whether Carter is right — but, it does provide some systematic evidence for his claim that many Americans don’t think African Americans are “qualified” (his words) to lead this country.

Some people would take these data as evidence of racism, but I have a more positive spin. The table gives the average rating for whites, and for southern whites, and from these you can back out the implied rating for non-southern whites. And we’re lookin good. We’re as intelligent as Asians and almost as hardworking! In the words of a famous non-hardworking, non-southern white: Woo-hoo!

Of course I don’t buy this–no way are non-southern whites as hard-working and intelligent as Asian Americans–I mean, c’mon. But it’s good to know that white people, at least, still think this. Now I want to see Lynn and Simon break down their respondents by where they live. Do southern whites themselves think they are lazier and dumber than non-southern whites??

P.S. The question stem reads:

Now, some questions about different groups in our society. Rate each group on the following scale, where “1” means you think almost all of the people in that group are “lazy”; and “7” means that you think almost everyone in the group is “hardworking.”

6 thoughts on “Some data on racial attitudes of whites

  1. To be fair, if I understand correctly, the claim that "many Americans don't think African Americans are "qualified" (his words) to lead this country." should actually be, "many Americans think a randomly selected African American will be less qualified than a randomly selected white person." Which is to say, we shouldn't assume that people can't distinguish correlation and causation in evaluating a candidate (v. formulating a prejudice against a demographic).

  2. It's like how nobody ever votes for Yao Ming to be the starting center in the NBA All-Star game because everybody is in thrall to the stereotype that Chinese guys aren't as tall on average as black guys.

    Oh, wait, Yao Ming always gets a ton of votes … In fact, maybe he gets more votes because he's Chinese and stands out.

  3. What's the percent rating blacks above whites? I guess I don't really get what exactly that percentage means.. how do the other 64% of people rate blacks against whites?

  4. There is a similar question in the General Social Survey. On average Americans estimate the average intelligence of different groups somewhat correctly — in fact, estimates for Af-Ams are significantly higher than what actual IQ tests show. Estimates don't differ much by political leaning, though they do differ by ethnic self-estimates.

    People do not interpret questions about group differences to refer to homogeneity within groups. So it is false that these estimates mean people believe Obama is unintelligent or lazy because he is black.

    More likely, in the case of his statements about illegal immigrants not receiving planned tax benefits, they believe he is being dishonest, because he is being dishonest.

  5. More positive spin: Taken alone, doesn't this indicate that whites think Af. Am. people are more hard-working and intelligent than not (assuming 4 neutral)? Carter said criticism of Obama is almost entirely because of racism. These data don't seem to support that claim (of course, racism could be motivating the most vocal critics).

  6. This research agrees with some anecdotal evidence from my sister, who lives in central Washington state. During the election, she heard several people make statements such as: "I just don't think a black man should be president." There are people who are bothered by the very idea of it.

    Why do people believe things like "Obama wants to institute death panels?" I think it partly reflects a sense that he is so "other" from them that they easily ascribe outrageous and bizarre motives to him. It is the kind of repulsion that underlies racism, Antisemitism, etc.

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