i don’t get it

Pew has a recent poll that shows some very good news for Obama.

Barack Obama leads John McCain by a 52% to 36% margin in Pew’s latest nationwide survey of 1,325 registered voters. This is the fourth consecutive survey that has found support for the Republican candidate edging down. In contrast, since early October weekly Pew surveys have shown about the same number of respondents saying they back Obama. When the sample is narrowed to those most likely to vote, Obama leads by 53% to 38%… Just as ominous for the Republican candidate, Obama holds a 53% to 34% lead among the sizable minority of voters (15%) who say they have already voted. Among those who plan to vote early but have not yet voted (16% of voters), 56% support Obama, while 37% support McCain.

But there’s something I don’t get. They also ask folks if McCain would do “too much for the wealthy”. By contrast, the question on Obama is whether or not he would do “too much for Blacks” (see after the break). What exactly does it mean to do too much for Blacks? Maybe this shows my complete political bias. You give them a disproportionate share of tax revenue? Reparations? 40 Acres and a mule? I just don’t get it. And I’d love to know what the 30% of Republicans thought he might actually do that was “too much.” Is Blacks just code for class? I repeat. I don’t get it.

13 thoughts on “i don’t get it”

  1. I find the question bizarre, for the reasons Shamus outlined above. What would the “right amount” be? Also the implied parity with “the wealthy” is really revealing! I would love to know what would happen if you don’t plant the groups in people’s minds — i.e., “Who do you think would win out too much if McCain wins” or something like that.


  2. First, fyi, the four items immediately preceding the ones in question appear to be measures of racism, but I’m no expert in racism measure, so that’s my best guess.

    Second, the actual item wording is:

    23 a. Barack Obama would do too much for African Americans
    b. John McCain would do too much for wealthy Americans

    Yeah, the wording seems strange at first but given the small number of “don’t know” responses, I’d say respondents understood the question (but I’m not a survey researcher so forgive my naivete). Anyway, as far as I know, the popular notion is that McCain is potentially biased towards the interests of wealthy voters, given his economic policies, etc. Not being seen as particularly racist, I’m guessing there would be little variation on the item, “John McCain would do too much for White Americans.” Though I’d be tempted to throw it in, just to see (I’m not sure how much extra it costs per question, again, I’m not a survey researcher). On the other hand, would it have made sense to respondents to say: “Barack Obama would do too much for poor Americans”? Though I think you could make a better case that he is seen as a champion for the poor, again, I’m not sure you would see any variation here since I’m guessing respondents are not likely to say it is possible to do too much for the poor. I think you would have to say, “… do too much for the unemployed” or something like that to get any variation.

    As for 23 a., the question makes sense particularly among Latinos, who if not in agreement, are at least aware of this sentiment*. It’s interesting though that, along with mis-reporting the item wording in the table above, they don’t report the responses for Hispanics, only Whites and Blacks.

    *The issue of African-American/Latino relations came up in the primary season more so than now. See also, Pew’s report “Do Blacks and Hispanics Get Along?” http://pewresearch.org/pubs/713/blacks-hispanics

    So anyway, maybe this is all part of some racism measure or something. The report definitely leaves a lot to be desired and, as already mentioned, says something about the assumptions of the writer perhaps. Again, they needed to do a better job writing this up (in my very humble opinion).


  3. the wording seems strange at first but given the small number of “don’t know” responses, I’d say respondents understood the question

    I’m not being glib. I still don’t get it. What did they understand the question to mean? The explanation seems to be that “AfAm” is a proxy for unemployment. But that’s just strange. What does it mean to do too much for AfAms and not Latinos? Would exactly would you do?


  4. @4.shakha: I think that’s precisely the problem. Groups are groups; all groups are the same; and so while southbymidwest is right that people ‘understood,’ it’s that they understood that the interviewer was trying to evoke a reaction to an issue they can’t ask about directly. But it’s a very hack-ish way of measuring this, since it doesn’t allow for commensuration among any comparison groups.


  5. wealthy : mccain :: black : obama, apparently.

    i think andrew’s characterization as hack-ish is right on. who can guess why they used “black” as an antonym for “wealthy”? i’m going to fall back on occam’s razor and chalk it up to incompetence.


  6. There is the idea of how not-explicitly-about-Blacks programs would affect Blacks, but there do exist race-explicit social policies, like affirmative action and reparations. I seriously doubt the latter issue would go anywhere in an Obama administration, but then again the question is a public opinion question.


  7. I think it is supposed to be a measure of the extent to which people believe the rumor that Obama secretly hates white people and would favor African Americans in his policies. Haven’t you heard anyone voice that fear? It’s disturbing, but it’s definitely in circulation.


  8. I was going to say the same thing as akphd. I’d heard that such a view existed, but disturbingly heard it first-hand from one of my closest friends the other night after she lamented to me that now it looked like that botherer was going to win. Some people think that he’s going to turn the country on its head and let poor blacks (who my friend referred to as crackheads and prostitutes) take over and stick it to the whites. Of the many inconsistencies in my friend’s argument, one of the most annoying was that this radical racial order upheaval argument came right after she said that Obama’s not even black.


  9. I’ve heard similar rumors on conservative sites on the Internet: Obama’s going to make white people into slaves, stuff like that.

    Frankly, that poll is the kind of thing I expect to hear people talking about in the South. But to see it in a national survey is just wrong. Racism R’ Us.


  10. “Frankly, that poll is the kind of thing I expect to hear people talking about in the South. But to see it in a national survey is just wrong. Racism R’ Us.” Uh, not to seem too contentious, but the northern smugness that racism is a southern thing is what’s wrong. I’m not saying everyone is racist, lots of folks are not (or at least don’t want to be racist and are as non-racist as it is possible to be in a hierarchical society) but by some measures (say, racial disparities in incarceration rates), the north is much worse than the south. It is my impression that blind unreasoning fear of blacks is more common among northern whites than southern whites (because white southerners are more likely actually to know black people, even if they are prejudiced). And a black friend commented to me that southern whites could read her class and tell that she was a professional woman, while northern whites couldn’t pick up the cues and would treat her as poor and uneducated, again because southern whites are more likely to actually know black people.


  11. @ 11: I concur. Northerners should ask themselves, “why is there a new great migration? Why did over 500,000 Blacks move from the North to the South from 1990-2000?” Jobs: yes. But it’s more than that.


  12. I’m from the South, so I guess my point of view is different. I will admit to never having lived in the North, but from what I’ve heard from friends, there is less racism. There was definitely less black-white racism where I lived in the West. Of course, I’ve lived for a while in the Delta regions of the South, which is very racist (both ways).


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