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January 27, 2006

Half-Assed Demography: Racial Traffic in Surveys

There is nothing that gets me quite as riled up as when I read about surveys like this one over matters of Katrina. It almost doesn't matter what the subject is, but researchers are guilty of trumping up racial differences without any proof that they are racial differences. It is a constant source of annoyance.

I understand that there are certain things that people are drawn to say when they take a boring academic subject and need to sex it up for a press release. Hell, 'Half-Assed Demography' is a hot line. But you would think that there would be some detailed breakout of the survey results available to the general public. But no, it will go out like this and the radio talkshows will take it from there, using the imprimatur of the University to back up whatever crazy racial theories they are ready to spout off.

When it came to OJ, I wrote a poem. A stanza from that:

but in the courtroom race itself
as a flashpoint ito denied
outside the courtroom pollsters pushed
a classic racialist divide.
they said those that believe in simpson
patently are black
and whites of course think otherwise
(and yes, we've got their back)
few pundits dared to bridge the rift
no pollster cared to split the diff
by education, party line
geography, zodiac sign
religion, history of crime,
orientation or other kind
of simple demographic
not age nor sex but racial traffic

(if i must name one, dominick dunne)

I'm not Ward Connorly and I'm happy that people have the nerve to consider race, but if that's all we are given to consider, what the hell difference does it make? Race can't be changed.

Posted by mbowen at January 27, 2006 10:28 AM

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I honestly think this is done to diminish the importance of a subject. When you take an important topic that affects all americans and break it into "whites feel this way, blacks feel that way", it gets written off as "a black issue" and its importance is now subjective as to how you feel blacks are being treated in america. This happens all the time. If something is affecting black americans, its a "black" issue, but if something is affecting white americans, its an "American" issue.

Posted by: dewfish at January 29, 2006 12:48 PM

Hi, Cobb.

Actually, that was an interesting study. The sign of how empathic we Americans are is the "rebuilding test" where you are shown someone who doesn't look like you and then are asked whether your tax dollars should help them. The two groups score nearly the same in empathy.

However, the possiblity of interviewer bias is the use of the phrase "refugess or Americans" for one set of questions, but only "refugees" on the other. I might expect a slight increase in nobility when patriotism is brought to bear and a person is reminded of commonality.

Posted by: unclesmrgol at February 5, 2006 11:09 PM