The Hidden Brain

Our unconscious biases.

Does Prez Obama Favor Blacks Over Whites?

Tea Partiers Believe Prez Obama Favors Blacks Over Whites

More than twice as many members of the Tea Party Movement (compared to the general public) believe President Obama favors blacks over whites. The stats: 25 percent of tea Partiers versus 11 percent of the general public believe the Obama White House disproportionately favors blacks over whites. This according to a New York Times poll.

The link between political outlook and racial views is a correlation — we cannot say for sure whether concerns about benefits accruing disproportionately to blacks drives the Tea Partiers’ opposition to President Obama, or whether opposition to President Obama drives concerns about benefits accruing disproportionately to blacks. It is also possible that some other factor drives both phenomena. (When it rains, people wear rainboots and carry umbrellas. It would be absurd to conclude that wearing rainboots causes people to hold umbrellas. Both rainboots and umbrellas are triggered by a third factor — the rain.)

The striking size of the correlation, however, reminds me about the disparate threads that have been shown to link racial outlook and political orientation in the United States. I describe these at length in Chapter 9 of The Hidden Brain — Disarming The Bomb — and also talk about ways conscious and unconscious racial bias can be neutralized in politics.

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Shankar Vedantam is a science reporter with National Public Radio and a Nieman fellow at Harvard University.

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