Polling racism (updated)

21 September 2008

Pollsters have, you know, training as pollsters, but I’ve got a question.

Marc Ambinder has a post up about race and the “Bradley effect,” which is the idea that support for minority candidates will be overrepresented in pre-election polls. I’m most interested in this AP poll (link goes to story which links to the poll results), in which white voters are asked how well various words describe most Blacks.

Now, I’m no scientist — my Physics 201 and 202 over the summer was probably the most intense scientific experience I’ve had — but it seems to me there’s no control in this study.

Yes, only about 15% of White Republicans described Black people as “determined” — but it certainly seems possible that those being polled are generally misanthropic, and would describe White people the same way.

Note: this is not to say that there’s not bias against Black people. I think certainly there is more and subtler racism than most people think. But this study doesn’t reveal it. There doesn’t seem to be any control here, asking about White people, or people in general. If the same 85% of Republicans who wouldn’t describe Black people as determined also wouldn’t describe White people that way, then we may have cynics, not racists.

Science people! Help me out here. Am I wrong?

Update: There are other problems with the poll.

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One Response to “Polling racism (updated)”

  1. Joel Monka Says:

    I believe you’re right. I notice that no pollster has ever yet considered the question of how many votes Senator Obama is getting from people who just want to be part of history, who are excited about the concept of a black president.


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