Smarter people more concerned about racism but no more likely to support policies against it: study

Interesting research suggesting a gap between attitudes and actions:

Recent research shows that Americans think about racial questions differently than other political issues.

In general, people with better scores on tests of intelligence are more likely to describe themselves as liberal, researchers have found. For example, they’re more likely to support intrusive governmental policies intended to protect the environment, according to the new study, which was published earlier this month. They’re also more likely to say that African-Americans are discriminated against and far less likely to call them stupid or lazy.

When you get down to the brass tacks of dealing with racial prejudice, though, more intelligent people seem to tunnel back into the woodwork. The new study revealed that smarter respondents are no more likely to support specific policies designed to improve racial equality – even though they are more liberal on other issues and are more likely to see discrimination as a problem.

That was the riddle Geoffrey Wodtke, the author of the study and a sociologist at the University of Toronto, was hoping to solve. To be sure, many white participants probably were conservatives who opposed the policies for reasons having nothing to do with race – skepticism about the government’s ability to engineer social change or commitment to the ideal of the free market. Those reasons, though, should have been less compelling for the more intelligent respondents.

“If this is truly an issue of higher-ability whites being more opposed to fairly intrusive government interventions,” Wodtke said, “they should be opposed to those across the board, at least if the principle is consistently applied.”

His conclusion is that while many intelligent Americans might think of themselves as progressive, they might not be entirely prepared to stand by their stated views on race.

Wodtke examined data from the General Social Survey, which has been asking Americans about their attitudes on a range of subjects since 1972. The survey includes a short, simple test of verbal intelligence.

Among those white participants who performed poorly on the intelligence test, 46 percent described blacks as lazy and 23 described them as unintelligent. Thirty-five percent did not want black neighbors, and 47 percent would not want a black sibling, son- or daughter-in-law.

Among those who did well on the verbal test, 29 percent said blacks were lazy and 13 percent said they were unintelligent. Twenty-four percent and 28 percent opposed residential integration and interracial marriage, respectively.

Among those who scored badly, fewer than two-thirds said employers discriminate against blacks, compared to nearly four-fifths of those who did well on the test.

In other words, white respondents with better verbal intelligence scores have more favorable opinions about blacks and are less likely to blame them for their disadvantages in the economy and in society. That was even true among white respondents with the same level of education.

Yet there was no relationship between respondents’ intelligence and their support for affirmative action in employment or for busing between school districts, which had the support of 12 percent and 23 percent of all white participants, respectively.

Source: Smarter people more concerned about racism but no more likely to support policies against it: study

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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