Republicans Tend to Think Blacks and Whites Face Similar Levels of Racism, Study Suggests

Research has debunked the notion that a drop in racial discrimination against black people has coincided with a rise in discrimination against white people, as some populists and members of the far-right claim.

The study published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour also showed white people consistently faced less prejudice than black people in the U.S..

When the researchers looked at the attitudes of members of different political parties, they found both Democrats and Republicans appear to have some incorrect perceptions about the levels of prejudice black and white people experience.

White people and Republicans were found to underestimate the amount of discrimination black people experienced. Republicans also tended to think black and white people face prejudice in more equal amounts than evidence suggests.

Meanwhile, black people and Democrats tend to overestimate the racial bias that blacks face, but at a level more in line with what data suggests is the truth.

Study co-authors, Professor Gordon Hodson of Canada's Brock University Department of Psychology and his PhD student Megan Earle, jointly told Newsweek the effect is "apparently driven by perceptions that whites face less discrimination than what is reportedly experienced by whites."

To carry out their study, the researchers combined the data from two nationally representative datasets from the U.S., one featuring information collected from 3,479 respondents in 2012, and the other involving 2,443 people from 2016. They also looked at three datasets spanning approximately the past two decades— including one from the FBI—detailing reports of discrimination, and hate crimes.
The work comes amid what the authors described in their study as the rise of "political polarization and far-right movements across the West [which] are thought to be partly driven by beliefs that white people face discrimination in societies that supposedly favour non-white people."

A vocal minority argues that "traditionally dominant groups," like white people are "victims of a downward trajectory of social status and power" dubbed "reverse discrinination" or "reverse racism," they said.

"Such themes of white loss and perceived anti-white discrimination are also central in the emerging far-right populism and (white) nationalist movements in the United States and Europe in recent years, and reverse discrimination is believed to have played a role in the presidential election of Donald Trump," the authors wrote.

Earle and Gordon told Newsweek: "The study tells us that declines in anti-black discrimination over the past several decades has coincided with declines in anti-white discrimination over the same time period, providing no evidence that discrimination operates in a zero-sum manner."

The pair said that while some argue tackling discrimination against marginalized groups puts other groups at a disadvantage, the "research suggests that this is unlikely to be the case." It appears "a rising tide of tolerance lifts all boats," they said.

"This research may be used to ease the minds of those worried that anti-discrimination policies will necessarily put traditionally advantaged groups (e.g., Whites) at a disadvantage," they said.

However, the authors acknowledged their study was limited by their capacity to measure experiences of discrimination, as they have to rely on people's perceptions.

"It's not uncommon for marginalized group members to underrepresent the amount of discrimination that they have personally experienced," the authors explained to Newsweek.

"So although we found that blacks experience more discrimination than whites, this limitation means that the differences in discrimination experiences between black and white people may be even larger than what we found in our study," they said.

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