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Finding the silver lining in the AP's race survey

Posted by Alan Wirzbicki  November 26, 2012 06:03 PM

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Just before election day, the Associated Press released a national survey that indicated that general anti-black attitudes among Americans have increased with four years of the first African-American president, Barack Obama. The AP, assisted by researchers from Stanford University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Chicago, found that “anti-black sentiments jumped to 56 percent, up from 49 percent” in 2008.

The cup half-empty interpretation of the results is that the presence of a black man as arguably the most powerful person on the planet has not resulted in a major shift on perceptions of African Americans.

But there was plenty in the survey for those who want to see the cup as half full. One example was the response to the statement, “Over the past few years, blacks have gotten more economically than they deserve.” That sentiment has often been bitterly expressed in controversies over affirmative action and welfare. Twenty percent of Americans agreed with the statement, while 27 percent disagreed.

But the biggest percentage of respondents were neutral, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. The percentage happened to be 47 percent. Such a response is a quiet repudiation of Mitt Romney’s famous assertion that 47 percent of Americans wanted
entitlements.

Anti-black sentiments may indeed have a long way to go despite Obama winning a second term in the White House. But the 47 percent of Americans who are neutral and the 27 percent who disagree makes for three quarters of Americans who no longer fall for the harshest of stereotypes of black people wanting something for nothing. That has to mean something good for the future of race relations.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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