Reihan Salam has a post up on the alignment of racism and political orientation. He begins:
Recently, Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC’s UP with Chris Hayes, made the following observation:
It is undeniably the case that racist Americans are almost entirely in one political coalition and not the other.
Chris is a good friend of mine, and we grew up in the same milieu. I can attest to the fact that the view he expressed is very widely held in the circles in which we both travel….
Salam then links to Alex Tabarrok, who uses party identification data to indicate that actually racism is split between the two groups, while John Sides suggests that there is a definite lean toward Republicans being more racist, using a few indicator variables. Overall I think Sides is about right, all things equal conservatives are more racist than liberals. At least in the modern context of the two ideologies.* I say conservative/liberal rather than Republican/Democrat, because my experience with the GSS data set is that ideology is a more powerful predictor of social views among whites. This holds true with the variables which Tabarrok and Sides query from what I can see; the gap between Democrats and Republicans is smaller than between liberals and conservatives. Why? There are still a non-trivial number of self-identified conservative Democrats in this country, as well as very well off socially moderate Republicans who vote their economic interests.
Before further analysis, I do want to admit one thing: “racism” is a subjective term to a great extent. I say this because there are very few Americans left who will defend legal segregation and white supremacy. At the other extreme there are some Democrats and liberals who would claim that opposition to affirmative action is racism. That seems too far. Between the two are a whole host of views ad positions, and there is dispute where to draw the appropriate line. But no matter where you draw the line there does seem a robust difference between white liberals and conservatives. The only key issue is that the difference, even if consistent, is often not very great. Sides and Tabarrok seem to have the right of it in relation to Hayes.
What I think is going on with Hayes’ assertion is similar to what’s going on with social conservatives who talk about “pro-family” views and attitudes. Very few liberals are “anti-family” (though some Leftist radials arguably are, insofar as they want to overturn normative understandings of the American family). And yet similarly very few conservatives are “pro-racism.” Rather, the terms have become implicit code among conservatives and liberals for opinions on a wide range of family and race related issues. Even if conservatives don’t live the pro-family agenda (e.g., Newt Gingrich), they believe in it. Similarly, even if white liberals live among, socialize, and marry, other white liberals, they believe in a particular vision of race relations. More concretely, conservatives who label themselves pro-family support a suite of policies which they presume support the values of families, even if their own families are a shambles. Liberals who oppose racism in Vermont or rural Oregon do so through their support for particular policies which they believe foster national racial equality.
But to some data. Replicating John Sides’ results with ideology, for non-Hispanic whites after the year 2000:
But I wanted to take the analysis just a little further than Sides. First, what about segregation in one’s personal life?
I did find a variable where there was a strong difference between whites by ideology:
These results prompted me to look for some literature in this domain. Here’s what I found, Is Love Colorblind? Political Orientation and Interracial Romantic Desire:
As shown in Figure 2, the probability that a White participant at 1 SD toward the liberal end of the spectrum would say “yes” to a Black speed-dater was approximately 26%, whereas the probability that a White participant at 1 SD toward the conservative end of the spectrum would say “yes” to a Black speed-dater was approximately 16%.
I think these results encapsulate the truth which Chris Hayes’ elided: a tendency toward racial whites consciousness, whether explicit or implicit, increases the odds that one is conservative (and vice versa), but it does not guarantee that one is conservative.
* There was a time in the 19th century where being racialist was the more progressive ideology.