You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Dear Nyt Race Poll Respondents: Please Elaborate!

This graf jumped out at me from the Times write-up of its poll on race:

As it was eight years ago, few Americans have regular contact with people of other races, and few say their own workplaces or their own neighborhoods are integrated. In this latest poll, over 40 percent of blacks said they believed they had been stopped by the police because of their race, the same figure as eight years ago; 7 percent of whites said the same thing [emphasis added].

Seven percent of whites believe they've been stopped by the police because of their race? For what, exactly? Were the police hunting down people who'd back-dated stock options and mistook them for a greedy CEO? If only Chappelle's Show were still around--the sketch practically writes itself.

On a more serious note, this finding from the poll itself strikes me as pretty encouraging for Obama:

44. If Barack Obama is elected President, do you think the policies of his administration would favor whites over blacks, favor blacks over whites, or would they treat both groups the same?

               Favor Whites       Favor Blacks      Treat both the same    

White            1                          16                          79

Black            3                           4                           90

As I've mentioned before, one of the problems black candidates often have is that white voters assume they'll use their position to help black voters at the expense of whites--a perception white opponents sometimes try to subtly reinforce. That only 16 percent of whites believe this about Obama (or at least admit it to pollsters), and 79 percent think Obama will treat members of both races equally, seems like a real achievement.

Update: A commenter shrewdly asks whether I've misunderstood the question--he/she suspects the poll asked white people whether black people are sometimes stopped by the police because of their race, not whether they themselves are. A plausible explanation, but wrong as it turns out. The actual question was:

64. Have you ever felt you were stopped by the police just because of your race or ethnic background?

I guess the word "ethnic" could have been the trip-wire here. Maybe lots of Irish, Italians, Jews, and other white ethnics believe the police are profiling them for whatever reason.

--Noam Scheiber