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WSJ/NBC News Poll Results On Discrimination

Charlottesville, Virginia

July 23, 2020

Here I go again posting an article that is bound to evoke some protests.

I don't post this article because it supports my views on discrimination; I'm not sure that it does. I'm posting it because it triggered some thoughts.

First, with any poll, you need to know more about the survey method than the press usually provides. My preference is that the survey method is presented upfront - but as usual, it is presented at the end of this article. And all it is says is "The Journal/NBC News poll surveyed 900 registered voters July 9-12. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.27 percentage points." On one of the graphs that they state that it was a telephone survey. Fair to assume it was a landline phone? So that rules out probably a lot of young people as well as folks like me who haven't had a landline in 15 years. What others errors could there be? July is vacation month - so maybe the results are biased toward folks who don't have the wherewithal to take a vacation? There's dozens of reasons we could come up with for questioning the poll results. I'm no survey expert, but it sure would be comforting to have the results of several surveys to see if the results are replicable.

Second, I have a concern due to the availability bias - that bias that your thoughts (intuitions) are influenced by the most recent information you have had access to. What's the staying power of these results? In six months when the news cycle has moved on to the next topic, will folks still feel the same way? I'd bet that in six months there would be a decrease in those who feel there is discrimination.

Third, it blows my mind how differently certain groups see the world.

Fourth, I always need to remind myself that these national polls are of limited use to some degree. No one could describe the USA as a homogeneous society. Big urban areas have different issues than rural areas. College towns are different than towns full of retirees. Painting issues with such a broad brush can -- does -- lead to errant conclusions. One of the questions we have all been pondering is the one about "systemic racism." Now a number of my friends say there is no systemic racism in the USA. But let's put a fine mesh on the USA - I believe that there is no doubt that there is systemic racism in some areas of the USA. Maybe it is a town, or maybe it exists in an urban setting ("I'm from Boston" ). I also believe there are parts of the USA where you could argue there is no racism. Answers that are going to work in Minneapolis and Chicago, probably aren't going to work in Richmond -- because the problems are different, I believe.

Not being very eloquent here. Lots of curiosity going on in my head.

Perhaps Bill and Ted were right:


Voters in growing numbers believe that Black and Hispanic Americans are discriminated against, and a majority of 56% holds the view that American society is racist, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds.

The poll finds that Americans of all races and age groups share significant concerns about discrimination nearly two months after George Floyd, a Black man, was killed in police custody in Minneapolis. Nearly three-quarters of Americans, 71%, believe that race relations are either very or fairly bad, a 16-point increase since February.

In other signs of substantial shifts in views on race, more voters see racial bias as a feature of American society and support protests aimed at addressing it. Nearly 60% in the survey said that Black people face discrimination, and just over half said so of Hispanics, about double the shares from 2008. Support has also 🧐 for two of the public responses to concerns about inequality: the Black Lives Matter movement and professional athletes’ practice of kneeling during the national anthem.

“Americans are concerned about issues of inequality, and George Floyd’s death helped contribute to that,” said Brenda Lee, a pollster who worked on the survey with Democrat Jeff Horwitt and Republican Bill McInturff. “We’ve moved the needle a great deal in terms of just clearly identifying that we, as Americans, have an issue with racism in this society.”

In its deepest look at race in America in two decades, the Journal/NBC News poll also shows members of the two parties hold sharply different opinions about the extent of racial discrimination.

An overwhelming majority of Democrats, 90%, said Black people are discriminated against, whereas 26% of Republicans agreed. A similarly large share of Democrats, 82%, believe American society is racist, a view held by 30% of Republicans.

The events of the past eight weeks have nonetheless moved both Black and white voters toward a shared interest in addressing longstanding problems that many say disproportionately affect people of color.

Fifty-seven percent of voters said they support the nationwide protests sparked by Mr. Floyd’s killing, and 58% said they are more concerned with racial inequality as a result of the demonstrations. Since his death, elected officials across the country have grappled with how to respond to national conversations around policing, race and the legacy of slavery.

President Trump, a Republican, has largely resisted the changes that protesters and others have called for. He has criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, saying it has a hostile posture toward police. Mr. Trump has said that displaying the Confederate flag should be protected as an expression of free speech, has questioned a Nascar ban on the flag and threatened to veto a defense bill over its inclusion of a requirement that the Defense Department rename U.S. military bases that honor the Confederacy.

A slight majority, some 51% of voters, support removing Confederate statues from where they stand now on public property, while 47% would leave them in place.

Only 10% say the statues should be removed and destroyed. Most voters take a middle position: Some 41% believe that Confederate monuments should be moved and reinstalled in museums, while 31% would leave them in place but add a plaque to explain their historical context. Some 16% would leave such monuments in place as they are, without additional information about their historical background.

“We do not have lots of people in the extremes on this question,” said Micah Roberts, a Republican pollster who also collaborated on the survey. Even among Republicans who most support Mr. Trump, he said, a plurality would add a plaque as opposed to leaving Confederate monuments as they are today.

Attitudes have changed on the appropriateness of kneeling during the national anthem—a gesture popularized by Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback whom league owners shunned after he took a knee during the national anthem in 2016 to draw attention to police brutality.

A narrow majority of Americans, 52%, now say it is appropriate for athletes to kneel during the anthem to protest racial inequality, up from 43% in 2018. In the new survey, 45% said kneeling was inappropriate.

Mr. Trump has suggested that players who kneel during the anthem be suspended without pay. He reignited the issue during a campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., last month, telling supporters, “We will never kneel to our national anthem or our great American flag.”

With less than four months until the November election, Mr. Trump’s handling of race relations earns negative marks, with 63% of voters saying they disapprove and 33% approving. Half of Americans feel it has become more acceptable for people to express racist views since Mr. Trump was elected.

Voters remain split on the root cause of racism and how to address racial bias and discrimination.

A majority of Black voters in the survey, 65%, said that people of color experience racial discrimination because it is built into American society, including U.S. policies and institutions. By contrast, a plurality of white voters, 48%, attributed racial discrimination to individuals who hold racist views, as opposed to institutions and society as a whole.

Views of the Black Lives Matter movement also differ by race. Among Black voters, 76% hold a positive view of the movement, while views were almost evenly divided among white voters, with 42% holding a positive view and 39% a negative one.

Overall, about half of voters see the movement in a positive light, up from 38% in 2016.

Three-quarters of voters said they were encouraged that the country is addressing longstanding issues of racism in society. At the same time, half said they were concerned that the protests over racial issues are creating social unrest and bringing too much change to the country, including erasing America’s history and significant figures in it.

Survey respondent Myrtis Orr, 76 years old, said the climate today marked a significant shift from when she participated in the civil-rights movement of the 1960s.

“Back during the time when I was in the movement, it wasn’t as diverse as it is,” said Ms. Orr, a resident of Jackson, Miss. “What’s different now is there were a lot of different races that were participating in the marches or demonstrations to let you know that it’s time for a change.”

She added that incidents of police violence and discrimination against Black people have become more public. “You can’t lie and hide, because the camera shows you what people are doing,” said Ms. Orr, who is Black. “Now, you can see it for yourself.”

Poll participant Joanne Larsen of Iron Mountain, Mich., said she agreed that Black people are treated differently in society but felt the protests “went too far,” citing property damage in some cities and the toppling of Confederate statues.

“The whole situation got out of hand,” said Ms. Larsen, who is white and 57 years old. She added that she would like to see the statues moved to a museum. “It’s part of who we are and part of how we got to where we are.”

Respondent Rick Gray, 56, said he started examining issues of race “from a different lens” after watching the video in which former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

“I get the phrase Black Lives Matter,” said Mr. Gray, who is white and a resident of Dublin, Ohio. “When you see a murder on camera like that, how could you not come away thinking that [the police] didn’t think his life mattered? That’s what struck me.”

The Journal/NBC News poll surveyed 900 registered voters July 9-12. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.27 percentage points.

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