It's American election season and that means it is time for psychologists to introduce racism again - not whether you are racist, but how much.
Well, only white people are, said a talk at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. Even if they do not have any racist thoughts or lock their car door when they see a young, black man on the sidewalk and voted for Obama in 2008, white people still are; and their racial attitudes, both conscious and unconscious, may be a significant factor in this year's U.S. presidential election. A survey says so.
"People may not even be aware that they have certain racial attitudes and that could be why, even with an African-American president in the White House for nearly four years, race continues to play a role in electoral politics," Anthony G. Greenwald, Ph.D., said in an interview. Greenwald was lead author on a paper about a survey of 15,000 voters. Surveys and statistics dressed up as science should make more than white voters nervous.
The survey asked respondents about their political beliefs, how "warmly" they felt toward black and white people, and which presidential contender they preferred. The survey was done between January and April 2012, while the Republican hopefuls included Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. The research team also measured unconscious racial attitudes using the Implicit Association Test (IAT), which Greenwald developed more than a decade ago to measure thoughts and biases that people don't realize they have. Variations of the test measure implicit attitudes about topics such as race, gender, sexuality and ethnicity. It's a test designed to uncover racism, even if it is unconscious. Not surprisingly, it always does.
The IAT results showed a pattern labeled 'automatic white preference' among a majority of eligible white voters. The finding that some candidates are more attractive to voters with pro-white racial attitudes does not mean that those candidates are racist, Greenwald emphasized.
Previous surveys showed that both blacks and whites show explicit preferences for their own race. This was clearly unacceptable so implicit racial bias and the IAT was created. In these implicit, or unconscious, preferences, blacks don't prefer one race over another, whereas close to 70 percent of white Americans show an implicit racial bias using this new, fuzzy definition. That should drive up votes for the candidate of the party 990 out of 1,000 psychologists vote for.
They're out in force surveying people's attitudes about the 2012 presidential candidates as part of their Decision 2012 IAT study, with a survey modified to focus on voters' comparisons of Romney with President Obama. Summaries of the data will be posted on the site each month beginning in mid-August.
Are you white and want to find out how secretly racist you are? Go here.
Implicit Association Test: Are You Secretly Racist? (Hint: You Are)
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