Friday, September 26, 2008

"PC" Polling

I don’t usually pay too much attention to political opinion polls, given their vaunted ability to skew the results to favor the pollsters’ viewpoints. But this AP-Yahoo News poll is an eye-opener. It exposes serious and dangerous assumptions that are accepted by many people in our culture. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronical:

Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks — many calling them "lazy,""violent" or responsible for their own troubles.

The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004 — about 2.5 percentage points.

Statistical models derived from the poll suggest that Obama's support would be as much as 6 percentage points higher if there were no white racial prejudice.

This is absolutely repulsive. That the AP writers, Ron Fournier and Trevor Tompson, can actually report on this without any serious analysis makes one wonder whatever happened to skeptical, investigative journalism. There is not even a thin pretense of any kind of objectivity in this poll. It is utterly dishonest and fraudulent.

First of all, the methodology is straight collectivism, which automatically excludes any thinking person. The poll asks:

Given a choice of several positive and negative adjectives that might describe blacks, 20 percent of all whites said the word "violent" strongly applied. Among other words, 22 percent agreed with "boastful," 29 percent "complaining," 13 percent "lazy" and 11 percent "irresponsible."

Among white independents, racial stereotyping is not uncommon. For example, while about 20 percent of independent voters called blacks "intelligent" or "smart," more than one third latched on the adjective "complaining" and 24 percent said blacks were "violent."

How in the world does any rational person answer a question that requires the choice of an adjective such as "intelligent,” "smart," “lazy,” “irresponsible,” or “boastful” to describe a group? Those are attributes that belong to individuals, and only individuals. Any thinking person would be immediately repulsed by the question, and walk away. That leaves only people who already are pre-disposed to a collectivist, or group identity, mindset...the very type of people most likely to be racist. So the poll’s format, the “unique methodology of Knowledge Networks,” has a built-in bias in favor of racist attitudes, no pun intended.

Secondly, the poll is aimed only at white respondents. But come on now. This is a public opinion poll allegedly intended to show the extent to which racism might affect Obama’s electoral chances. According to the opening sentence of this AP press release:

This AP-Yahoo News poll was designed to dig into one of the most sensitive subjects in American politics: racial attitudes and their effect on how people will vote in an election in which Democrat Barack Obama could become the first black president.

Well, what about the people who are voting for Obama because he is black? No inquiry. What about black bigots? No inquiry. What about guilt-ridden collectivist white liberals who think that “they” (blacks) deserve a chance to have one of “their’s” in the White House, a very racist attitude? No inquiry. How much support does Obama gain from such voters? No inquiry.

What might happen to his 6 percentage point deficit if the poll actually considered all “racial attitudes and their effect on how people will vote,” as the above statement asserts? The fact is that he may actually be politically stronger because of racism. It’s entirely possible that more people will vote for, rather than against, him because of his skin color. More likely, the two groups cancel each other out. We’ll never know, of course. There will never be such a poll honest and objective enough to explore these questions. And that’s fine, except that there is something more sinister going on here.

What I see is the groundwork being set to blame white racism for an Obama defeat, which seems much more likely now than just a few weeks ago. In such an outcome, we will then have to be subjected to four years of the tarring of a McCain administration as being an illegitimate product of racism. It’s going to be ugly.

What’s even more outrageous is the implicit assumption evident in this poll. Go back and re-read that opening statement. It says only “racial attitudes and their effect on how people will vote.” It says not “white racial attitudes” but only “racial attitudes.”

Racism is the ascription of certain specific character traits to an individual based on genetic lineage, over which he has no control. It can take many forms, and be practiced by anyone of any background, against anyone of any background. It can occur even within one specific group; such as in the case of someone who claims an unearned credit or prestige based on the achievements of his ancestors of the same race, family, or ethnicity.

But racism has been progressively re-defined in America as being the sole province of whites. There are certainly voices out there that speak out against this Orwellian destruction of language and definitions. The once-venerable Associated Press apparently believes, though, that the PC police have succeeded and that the belief that racism only applies to whites is now accepted wisdom.

I do have one final observation. A bizarre aspect of this poll is that it was directed primarily at Democrats. Given the Associated Press’ role as mouthpiece for the Dems, what does one make of this? Are they deliberately trying to alienate a significant slice of their Democratic constituency? Or do they think that they can perhaps shame them into returning to the fold this November, lest they be branded as “racist”?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Post Reference 37

1 comment:

Christine said...

I saw the same poll and wondered why they were asking about an entire group with adjectives like that. I wondered how I would possibly be able to answer those questions since I have had experiences with individuals (both black and white) that are negative but wouldn't describe a whole segment of the population in one way!! Great post!