Sunday, June 26, 2016

Another way to look at discrimination

It's sometimes said that most whites believe that America is a "colorblind society," or even think there is more discrimination against whites than against blacks. I've had several posts on this general issue, looking at questions that asked directly (see this post for links).  This time I'll take another approach and look at responses to distinct questions about how much discrimination there is against blacks and against whites.  In 2005, a survey sponsored by the National Conference for Community and Justice asked) "Would you say there is a great deal of discrimination, some discrimination, only a little discrimination, or none at all against. . ." various types of people.  Blacks and whites were among those asked about, but were not close to each other.  Among whites, 48% saw more discrimination against blacks, 10% against whites, and 43% chose the same category for both.  In 2106, the American National Election Studies Pilot Survey asked "How much discrimination is there in the United States today against each of the following groups?"  The possible responses were "a great deal," "a lot," "a moderate amount," "a little," and "none at all."  This time, 52% saw more discrimination against blacks, 18% against whites, and 30% chose the same category for both.

The drop in the number choosing the same category is at least partly a result of the larger number of categories in 2016.  However, there is a clear change in the ratio perceiving more against blacks to more against whites, from almost 5:1 in 2005 to about 3:1 in 2016.  There were some differences in survey procedures--2005 was a random-digit phone sample and 2016 was a weighted opt-in internet panel.  That could make a difference, although I'm not sure of the direction.  Also, in 2016, the questions about blacks and whites were separated by only one item (Hispanics).  My guess is that if this made any difference, proximity would reduce the number of whites saying there was more discrimination against whites, because some would regard it as something they "shouldn't" say.

The general result fits with others suggesting that white perceptions of discrimination against blacks fell somewhat in the early 21st century.  The general estimate of the proportion seeing more discrimination against whites (10-20%) is about the same as with the direct questions.

PS:  for blacks, the 2005 percentages were 64, 3, and 33 (more against blacks, whites, same); the 2016 percentages were 80, 4, 17.

PPS:  The 2005 questions also were asked in 1996, but unfortunately the original data don't seem to have been preserved, so it's not possible to do a parallel analysis for that year.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

World government

It appears that an overwhelming majority of Americans who have an opinion on the subject think that Britain should remain in the European Union. But how many would support the United States joining an organization like the EU? My guess is very few. But back in 1946, the Gallup Poll asked "Do you think the United Nations organization should be strengthened to make it a world government with power to control the armed forces of all nations, including the United States?" 54% said yes, and only 24% no, with the rest undecided. The question was asked again in 1946 and 1947, with similar results. In 1951, the margin was smaller, at 49-36%. In 1953 and 1955, there were narrow margins against the idea. That was the last time the question, or anything like it, was asked. Of course, opposition probably would have increased if anyone had seriously tried to implement a plan like this, but for a while many Americans were willing to at least contemplate the idea.

Thursday, June 9, 2016


Republicans are scarce at elite universities today.  A recent poll of Harvard seniors found that only 4% said they would vote for Donald Trump in a race against Hillary Clinton.  Of course, some of that is Trump (although it's not directly relevant, I can't resist mentioning that he's involved in a dispute with the Harvard Lampoon), but only 19% said that they voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.  As I observed in a previous post, things used to be different:  in 1932, polls at 17 elite colleges and universities found a median of 63% for the Republican (Herbert Hoover), and only 17% for the Democrat (FDR), with 19% going to the Socialist candidate.  In 1936, there was an even more extensive series of polls conducted at almost 100 universities.  Unfortunately, I haven't been able to track down the complete list, but I have been able to find figures for twenty colleges and universities, mostly from the Vassar Miscellany News (Oct 31, 1936), supplemented by the Princeton Alumni Weekly (Nov 6, 1936).  Here they are, ranked from biggest margin for Roosevelt over Landon on down:


                 Dem    Rep    Soc Comm
NYU              66% 20% 3%   1%
Columbia         57%    26%     6%  10%
Chicago          55% 29% 8%   8%
Johns Hopkins    54%    33%     7%   5%
Barnard         49%    37%     7%   5%
Radcliffe        52%    43%     2%   3%

Michigan         45.7%  46.3%   5%   3%
California       42%    46%     7%   5%
Harvard          45%    51%     3%   1%
Cornell          40%    52%     4%   3%
Bryn Mawr        39%    55%     5%   1%
Yale             33%    61%     4%   1%
Brown            33%    61%     3%   1%
Vassar           28%    61%     7%   4%
Smith            31%    61%     4%   1%
Dartmouth        28%    64%     5%   1%
Princeton        25%    70%     3%   0.5%
Amherst          24%    70%     5%   0.6%
Williams         19%    74%     4%   1%
Sarah Lawrence   13%    78%     7%   3%

Mean             39%    52%     5%   3.5%
National         60.8%  36.5%   0.4% 0.2%

The two small left-wing parties did much better among students at elite universities than among the public as a whole.  But a majority went for the Republicans, in a year when that party lost by what is arguably the biggest landslide in modern American history. 

It's sometimes said that class differences were sharper in 1936 than they had been in 1932.  To quote Archibald Crossley, one of the pioneers of opinion polling, "In 1932 there was a countrywide wave of protest against Hoover, reading into all income levels.  In 1936 anti-Roosevelt feeling ran high in the upper-income classes." Presumably students at these institutions were mostly from the upper income classes, but of the 14 that had conducted polls in 1932, Republican support fell in 11 of them, and fell by more than 5% at seven of them.  Of course, college students don't necessarily reflect the opinions of their parents, but I recall that one of the earliest Gallup polls asked about vote in 1932, and reported class differences were not noticeably weaker than they were in 1936. I'm not aware of any definite evidence that class differences increased.

The Socialist vote, which fell from 19% to 5% among elite college students between 1932 and 1936, fell from 2.3% to 0.4% among the general public (the socialist candidate was Norman Thomas in both elections).  So even if there wasn't a change in class alignments, it seems that there was a change in ideological alignments, in the sense that many progressives who had been skeptical of Roosevelt in 1932 were won over in 1936.  In the general public, the socialist vote was too small for this to make much difference, but it is something that people who were interested in politics would have noticed.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Music has charms....

One of the many controversies around the Donald Trump campaign involves the music at his campaign rallies.  A number of artists, notably the Rolling Stones, have asked him to stop playing their songs.  Of course, Trump made his selections based on what he wanted, not on market research, but a Pew survey from 2009 provides some insight into what his audience might like.  It asked people whether they liked or disliked the following musicians:  Bob Dylan, Madonna, the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones, Coldplay, the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Jimi Hendrix, Kanye West, Michael Jackson, the Jefferson Airplane, Nirvana, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin.   The favorites among people who said they were conservative or very conservative and that they considered themselves a Republican or leaned Republican (lower numbers mean liked better):

Beatles                  1.64
Elvis Presley         1.66
Frank Sinatra        1.72
Aretha Franklin    1.73

And the least favorite:

Madonna              2.42
Grateful Dead      2.35
Kanye West         2.21
Nirvana                2.20

Among liberal Democrats, the favorites were:

Beatles                    1.34
Aretha Franklin      1.49
Rolling Stones        1.56
Jimi Hendrix           1.59

and the least favorite:

Madonna                 2.06
Grateful Dead         2.02
Kanye West            1.92
Jefferson Airplane  1.80

As you can see from the numbers, liberal Democrats generally liked all of the musicians better, but the rank order was similar among the two groups--the biggest exceptions were Elvis and Frank Sinatra. Those may seem obvious, but if you want something to puzzle over, the Jefferson Airplane is  16th out of 19 among liberal Democrats and 6th among conservative Republicans.