Sunday, July 13, 2008

Character Traits and Race

Using survey data to understand perceptions of race is tricky business because respondents are likely to give socially acceptable answers. But a few questions from the 2004 American National Election Study are revealing and provide a sense of the attitudinal hurdles Barack Obama has to clear in his historic quest to become the first African-American president.

Respondents were given "a seven-point scale on which the characteristics of the people in a group can be rated." Whites, blacks, Hispanic-Americans and Asian-Americans were to be rated in terms of how hardworking, intelligent, and trustworthy they are. Any score of 1, 2 or 3 means the respondent thinks - more or less - that most members of the various groups are hardworking, intelligent, and trustworthy. Here are the results (in terms of the percentage of respondents saying 1, 2, or 3) for whites, blacks, and Hispanics:

Whites - 53.9%
Blacks - 28.1%
Hispanics - 48.5%

Whites - 58.3%
Blacks - 35.4%
Hispanics - 33.5%

Whites - 49.2%
Blacks - 29.6%
Hispanics - 32.3%

These are simply astonishing numbers and indicate significant (and probably deep-seated) racist stereotyping. (Incidentally, the percentage saying Asians are hardworking, intelligent, and trustworthy are 66.7, 61.4, and 41.2, respectively.) Of course, Sen. Obama will, perhaps to a large extent, be viewed as an individual and, as such, will be thought to differ from most members of his race. But these numbers suggest the difficulty he'll face if race becomes a salient feature of this campaign.


Anonymous said...

Why is it racist to say that whites are more intelligent than blacks? Does Mr. Medvic know of any intellectual test on which blacks equal, let alone, outperform whites?

Anonymous said...

How do you know that any intelligence test you may cite is a fair depiction of intelligence levels?

Anonymous said...

Why don't you cite some "fair" test of intelligence which shows blacks and whites are equal or that blacks are superior?

Anonymous said...

Your questions rely on the faulty presumption that an "intelligence test" could possibly be a fair and accurate measure of a human's ability to learn and adapt to a changing environment.

In response, you will miss the mark and say that the tests you cite are "widely-accepted," and at any rate, we have no other measures available.

Well, I wish you the best of luck in your search for answers based on arbitrary comparisons.

Anonymous said...

In sum, you can't find any such tests and/or any other indicators that show that blacks are as intelligent or more than intelligent than whites but you your ideology requires you to believe so.
I note that you fail to indicate what a non-arbitrary comparison would be. Here's a suggestion: why don't you look at those countries which are overwhelmingly black and see how they do (e.g., in terms of per capita income, life expectancy, crime rates, etc.) compared with countries which are overwhelmingly white or Asiatic.

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