Poll: Majority of Americans are racist

It’s a stunning poll that the Associated Press released today on one of the most invisible news days of the week. More than half of all Americans have negative attitudes toward African Americans, it says.

Though it’s within the margin of error of a similar poll in 2008, it confirms there is no such thing as post-racial America.

“As much as we’d hope the impact of race would decline over time … it appears the impact of anti-black sentiment on voting is about the same as it was four years ago,” Jon Krosnick, a Stanford University professor, told the AP. He worked with the news organization to develop the survey.

Fifty-one percent of Americans express explicit anti-black attitudes, it says. About 52 percent have anti-Hispanic attitudes.

The poll finds that racial prejudice is not limited to one group of partisans. Although Republicans were more likely than Democrats to express racial prejudice in the questions measuring explicit racism (79 percent among Republicans compared with 32 percent among Democrats), the implicit test found little difference between the two parties. That test showed a majority of both Democrats and Republicans held anti-black feelings (55 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans), as did about half of political independents (49 percent).

“These findings should not surprise anybody,” political reporter Ron Fournier writes in the National Journal today. “Whether you’re white, black or brown, ask yourself: Do you harbor racial attitudes you wouldn’t share in pleasant company? You almost certainly have friends or relatives whose honest views on race make you wince. Does anybody really believe we’ve made the full journey to racial equality?”

Judged only by the poll results, however, it’s hard to say there’s been any movement on the journey to racial equality, at least in the last four years. The survey shows that electing a black president caused a backlash against African Americans in particular.

  • John P.

    Yesterday morning I noticed a TV ad for Michelle Bachmann that got me thinking about racism. The ad featured Obama and Pelosi as the scary people. No Harry Reid. Every ad I have seen since omits Reid from the lineup of scratchy-voiced distorted face demons. When I think about it, the wingnuts I work with constantly beat the Obama and Pelosi drum too, but never the Reid. Harry Reid has far more power than Nancy Pelosi right now, so why no Scary Harry? Not dark or female enough? It’s starting to look like a pattern.

  • Bob Collins

    The tendency, I think, is to want to discuss this in terms of political parties. But I think it’s important to remember that the poll showed the majority of Democrats and the majority of Republicans surveyed showed implicit racial attitudes towards blacks/Hispanics.

  • Eric Cooper

    I wonder when there will be a survey of African Americans, Hispanics and Asians asking the same type of questions. White Americans have the belief that minorities do not harbor similar sentiments of racism or give them a myriad of excuses for racist attitudes. For the issue race to truly be addressed in America and a plan of rectification implemented, all the data is necessary.

  • Ernest W. Adams

    Oh, dear. Mr. Cooper, you reveal your own racist assumptions. The survey WAS of all Americans, yet for some reason you chose to interpret it as a survey of whites!

  • The racism of yesteryear has come full circle in our county. The entire world embraced our choice of a black President four years ago and most nations still support him. The fringe elements of bigotry have crept through into the mainstream once again with conservative mouthpieces planting the seeds of hate. The only doubt lies here at home rooting from bigotry. Watch the white hands paint Obama in Blackface at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/10/bamboozling-obama.html

  • Bob Collins

    This isn’t going to be a “no, YOU’RE the racist” discussion here. This is a poll requiring introspection.

  • Bonnie

    Is there a way to see the survey questions?

    One of my favorite musical theater productions is Avenue Q. There is a song and dance number called “Everyone’s a little bit racist!” A fantastic little song, and if you’ve seen it live you see smiles on the audience faces as collectively we laugh at ourselves and each other. But it is so true.

    I admit that if I am weighing the choice of a woman or a non-white man vs. a white man, I give the former a lot of extra “points” in determining who I will support. That is racist and sexist. But I don’t believe there is a level playing field. My own personal affirmative action program I guess…but until women, for example, make up at least half of all elected bodies I will keep leaning.

  • Bonnie
  • Mark Gisleson

    But Bob, it’s OK to watch Fox News, it’s OK to listen to talk radio, and it’s certainly OK to say what they say, think what they want you to think. And since Fox and talk radio want you to be very, very scared of everyone who doesn’t look like you, this was inevitable.

    Call it what it is: conclusive proof that a majority of Americans can’t think for themselves, and prefer to be told what to think by the 1%’s TV flacks.

  • Drew Salisbury

    I am actually surprised these numbers aren’t higher. For ALL people, our attitudes and misconceptions about race have been hammered into us from a very young age, from a variety of sources (and indeed, they’ve been part of a narrative that has existed for hundreds of years before we were even born). They become so engrained in our thought processes that even when we know better, our first thoughts regarding people of different races, or indeed our own, are often terribly misguided. Overcoming racism, whether institutional or personal (if in fact it can be done) requires constant, critical thought, introspection, and empathy. We may never be able to rid ourselves of what can seem to be almost an instinctual response to race, but by identifying and challenging it in ourselves and others, we can perhaps make it so that “instinct” is never engrained in our children and grandchildren.

  • Bob Collins

    I don’t know what any of that means, Mark. I’m saying the discussion here isn’t going to be exchange of allegations between commenters over who is the *real* racist between the two.

  • David Poretti

    Racism is so covert and pervasive in our society, most don’t see it when they see it. Racism is so “bad”, most won’t admit to their true feelings. Many don’t recognize their own racism. Very few want to be called a racist. (Keep in mind, racism carries both “positive” and “negative” stereotypes.) I have volunteered as a racial justice dialog facilitator through the YWCA for 10 years. I have worked with students at the U & high schools, with police departments, hospitals, government agencies, social service agencies and more. Everything we know and feel is based on the cumulative experiences of our lives. All of us have grown up in a society plagued by racism. If we have the courage to truly look into our hearts, we are going see that sometimes each of us have had a tendency to prejudge another person, with race being one of the traits evaluated. The issue is not if we have racism in our society or in ourselves. The issue is what are we going to do about it.

  • Mimosa Sosa

    We are spirit-beings living in a shell/body.

    If people understand this, they can easily overcome views that have been engrained in them.

    The person is not the body, but the spirit inside.

    Another example is that we live in houses, but the houses don’t define us [we are not the houses in which we live in].

  • I am a white man who is disgusted with the racism I am seeing from my fellow Americans.

    Anyone who posts online in political forums has seen the dramatic rise in overt anti-black sentiment that is often displayed in the posts. In the past, many of these people would be embarrassed to post such hateful things, but they are now emboldened because of the encouragement from everyone from right-wing pundits to GOP leaders.

    It doesn’t take very long to draw a line from birthers, and references to a ‘food stamp president,’ to naked, blanket racism. And nobody in the GOP stands up to these bigots.

    Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are now the mainstream of the GOP, no longer the fringe.


  • sg

    “but until women, for example, make up at least half of all elected bodies I will keep leaning.”

    What if women don’t want to do it? I mean if only 25% of the people who are willing and able to do a job are women, how are you going to force more women to want to do that job? Same with coal mining and trash collecting. How do you get women to want to do those jobs? The pay is higher than many jobs that are predominantly filled by women, but the extra money doesn’t seem to lure women into truck driving and plumbing. So, how do you force women to like occupations they aren’t attracted to?

    It always seems to come back to the power positions. No one seems to care that blacks own and operate a smaller percentage of farms that in the past because that is not a power position. We seem obsessed with making sure there is equality in power positions but don’t care at all about the rate at which women or non Asian minorities participate in other kinds of work especially work that is very important and has to be done diligently like trash collecting.

  • Sabrina

    I’m a mixed race professional early 30’s female. I have hispanic, American Indian, African American as well as Anglo bloods. (Yes when I said mixed, I meant mixed). Anyway, I am a racist. Weird hu?! But it is something I cannot help. I feel this way and I don’t know why. I will NEVER apologize for how I feel! Every time I get around a lot of white , I cringe. I feel uncomfortable and want to leave. I bought my house in a neighborhood where my neighbors are of color. I find myself being biased against whites, I make fun of their features and their whole demeanor and could give a care about who they are on the inside. It’s wrong and I know this but like I said I cannot help it. Especially because my grandfather, may he rest in peace was a white man. I love that man more than any man ever. He was such a good man! He fought in the Korean war and retired from the railroad. Despite all this, I am what I am and that is a racist!! Sue me!