The NAACP, the Tea Party and the Question of Racism

Jul 12, 2010 10:54am

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is reported today to be considering a resolution condemning the Tea Party movement for racism within its ranks. While our data don't speak to views at the individual level, in the broadest, population-based sense, we don't see it.

We covered the question in our extensive look at the movement in May. Certainly suspicions of racism are there: We found that 57 percent of people who oppose the Tea Party suspect its members of racial prejudice (specifically, against President Obama). That declined to a quarter of those who are neutral toward the movement, and 10 percent of its own supporters.

Certainly views on race differ among groups, and as we noted at the time, Tea Party supporters are less apt than other Americans to see racism as a major problem. But that view also is associated with attributes other than being a Tea Party supporter – being very conservative, for example, and being white.

We tried to disentangle these by producing a regression analysis predicting independent elements of support for the Tea Party movement, using views of the extent of racism in society and of Obama’s efforts on behalf of African-Americans as measures of racial sentiment.

As we reported: “A statistical analysis indicates that the strongest predictors of supporting the Tea Party are views of Obama, ideology, partisanship and anger at the way the government is operating. Views on the extent of racism as a problem, and views on Obama’s efforts on behalf of African-Americans, are not significant predictors of support for the Tea Party movement.”

The full analysis is here, and I'm pasting the section dealing with race below.

From our May survey:

THE QUESTION OF RACE – Tea Party supporters broadly agree on motivations for backing the movement – economic concern (cited by 83 percent), distrust of government (79 percent) and opposition to President Obama and the Democrats (72 percent). Many fewer supporters, but still 39 percent, cite dissatisfaction with the Republican Party as a reason for favoring the Tea Party.

At the same time, the movement’s supporters broadly reject the suggestion of racial prejudice against Obama. Eighty-seven percent of Tea Party backers say this is not a reason people support it. (One in 10 say it is). Racism, rather, is suggested by many Tea Party opponents, 57 percent of whom suspect prejudice in the movement’s ranks. (Among people who are neutral toward the Tea Party, about a quarter, 24 percent, suspect prejudice is at play in its support.)

Tea Party supporters are less apt than others to see racism as a major problem in this country – a majority do so, 58 percent, compared with 75 percent of all Americans. However, this concern is about the same among Tea Party supporters as it is among all adults who define themselves as very conservative (61 percent say racism is a significant problem). And Tea Party supporters are more apt to be white – 81 percent, vs. 74 percent of all adults (and 65 percent of Tea Party opponents). Whites are less apt than nonwhites to see racism as a major problem.

Further, while 18 percent of Tea Party supporters say Obama is doing “too much” to represent the interests of African-Americans, exactly as many say he’s doing too little in this regard. And those proportions are about equal among all Americans – 12 percent say Obama’s doing too much for African-Americans, 13 percent too little.

Ultimately, a statistical analysis indicates that the strongest predictors of supporting the Tea Party are views of Obama, ideology, partisanship and anger at the way the government is operating. Views on the extent of racism as a problem, and views on Obama’s efforts on behalf of African-Americans, are not significant predictors of support for the Tea Party movement.

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