Friday, May 18, 2018

What exactly do we mean by "racial resentment"?

If you read any survey-based studies of racial resentment, Trump, etc. you're bound to run into the questions below. But what are these questions really telling us? Political scientists Riley Carney and Ryan Enos put this to the test in a ground-breaking paper, excerpts and link below.
"The four-question modern racism scale consists of the following questions:
1. Over the past few years, blacks have gotten less than they deserve.
2. Irish, Italian, Jewish, and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors.
3. It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.
4. Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class.
We suspect that respondents may answers these questions in a consistent manner, regardless of whether the target is Blacks or another group. If conservatives, in particular, respond consistently to these questions by endorsing conservative attitudes toward out-groups regardless of the target, this indicates that a common belief system is behind responses to these questions. For example, if white Americans will endorse the statement “It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if Niueans would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites” at the same levels they will when the statement is made about Blacks, then responses to modern racism scale are likely driven by other psychological features of political conservatives that lead them to endorse these statements across target groups, rather than specific attitudes about Blacks.
In our trials, subjects were asked two primary sets of questions. One set included questions used in the standard racial resentment scale with Blacks as the target group. The second set of questions was identical to the first, but with a non-standard target group in place of Blacks. The target group was randomly assigned from a diverse list of groups, such as “Bhutanese” or “Nepalese,” that are unlikely to be associated with stereotypes or racial animus like those expressed toward Blacks. We also included “Hispanic,” “some whites,” and “Americans” to test whether just world belief is driving responses in a way that would cause subjects to endorse statements about the importance of hard work, even if they have well-formed attitudes about the groups in question. We tested a total of seventeen nonBlack target groups, with each subject answering questions about two groups: Blacks and one non-standard target group…..
What is the difference in resentment when asked about a Black versus non-Black target group? Pooling all target groups, we see little to no difference between Black and nonBlack resentment. In Figure 1, we display average racial resentment toward different target groups, revealing a striking similarity in average racial resentment. The figure shows the distribution and median resentment for responses when the target group is Black, white, or all other groups collapsed into a single variable. The distribution of resentment toward Black and non-Black target groups is very similar, except that the spread of responses for Blacks, especially the bottom quartile, is larger than all other groups, indicating that a higher portion of respondents express low levels of resentment toward Blacks than toward other groups."
Food for thought, eh? And sorry, if you want to see the figures, you'll just have to look at the actual paper!
SCHOLAR.HARVARD.EDU

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