Phi Beta Cons

On ‘Racial Resentment’

I covered this ground in my American Spectator article today, but I think it bears repeating given Newsweek’s recent attempt to brand tea parties as racist.

According to Newsweek:

A new survey by the University of Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality offers fresh insight into the racial attitudes of Tea Party sympathizers. “The data suggests that people who are Tea Party supporters have a higher probability” — 25 percent, to be exact — “of being racially resentful than those who are not Tea Party supporters,” says Christopher Parker, who directed the study. “The Tea Party is not just about politics and size of government. The data suggests it may also be about race.”

Surveyers asked respondents in California and a half dozen battleground states (like Michigan and Ohio) a series of questions that political scientists typically use to measure racial hostility. On each one, Tea Party backers expressed more resentment than the rest of the population, even when controlling for partisanship and ideology. When read the statement that “if blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites,” 73 percent of the movement’s supporters agreed, while only 33 percent of people who disapproved of the Tea Party agreed. Asked if blacks should work their way up “without special favors,” as the Irish, Italians, and other groups did, 88 percent of supporters agreed, compared to 56 percent of opponents. The study revealed that Tea Party enthusiasts were also more likely to have negative opinions of Latinos and immigrants.

As I wrote in the Spectator, these “racial resentment” questions aren’t legitimate measures of racial bias, but rather transparent attempts to bait conservatives into giving “racist” answers. Conservatives believe people should climb the economic ladder through hard work, and that poverty results from behavior; when faced with statements like these, they’ll be far more tempted than liberals to agree, regardless of what they think about race specifically.

And as I also noted in the Spectator, even if tea partiers are more racist than other whites, that does not imply that racism motivates people to join tea parties. This is a basic correlation-causation error.

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