Another Brief Taste of Social Science

Almost a year ago we departed from our focus on creation science and upset quite a few of you when we gave you A Brief Taste of Social Science. Today we’re going to do it again.

Look what we found at PhysOrg: Race may play significant role in presidential election, survey finds. Wow — this is social science at its best! Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Voters’ racial attitudes, both conscious and unconscious, may be a significant factor in this year’s U.S. presidential election, particularly since whites tend to prefer people of their own race, according to research presented at the 120th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.

That must have been shocking news to the assembled social scientists. No doubt, such an idea had never entered their minds. Here’s more:

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, PhD, said in an interview. Greenwald was lead researcher on a Anthony G. Greenwald, PhD, survey of 15,000 voters.

We can’t find a published paper, but here’s Greenwald’s faculty page at the University of Washington, and here’s Greenwald’s personal page at the University’s website. Let’s read on from the PhysOrg article:

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.

The survey actually measures “unconscious racial attitudes” that people have without being aware of it. Fascinating! We continue:

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.

The candidates aren’t necessarily racist, but their voters are — they have an “automatic white preference” that Greenwald is able to detect. Here’s more:

Previous research has shown that both blacks and whites show explicit preferences for their own race, according to Greenwald. However, when it comes to implicit, or unconscious, preferences, blacks tend not to prefer one race over another, whereas close to 70 percent of white Americans show an implicit racial bias, he said.

The social scientist says that blacks tend not to prefer one race over another, and whites do. But see this from the New York Times: Election Results 2008. The voting results for Obama and McCain are broken down by several categories. If we’re reading it correctly, the racial breakdown shows that 95% of the black vote went for Obama, compared to only 55% of the white vote that went for McCain.

Somehow, the actual voting patterns in the last presidential election didn’t go according to Greenwald’s findings, but he’s not worried about that. He’s a social scientist.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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12 responses to “Another Brief Taste of Social Science

  1. I voted for Obama. I’m very white. The reason was Sarah Palin. I think she had a lot more to do with the election of Obama than any other single factor.

  2. Ah, so one can be unconsciously racist, regardless of word or deed. I’m sure it will soon follow that one can be unconsciously sexist as well. In the future, thought crime will be a reality, with the road leading to it paved with good (i.e., “progressive”) intentions. Can’t wait.

  3. NeonNoodle says: “Ah, so one can be unconsciously racist, regardless of word or deed.”

    Right. Regardless of what you may think are your reasons, if you don’t vote for Obama it’s probably due to your unconscious racism. And even if you do vote for him, you’re probably an unconscious racist anyway. This guy can detect racism like Casey can detect intelligent design. It’s there, even if you refuse to see it.

  4. IIRC the IAT measures how fast you pair adjectives to pictures or nouns. The faster you are to make the pairing, the more natural it is for you.

    So, if you forced people to take less than 1 second to cast a vote, it might be a good indicator of how they’re going to make that split-second decision. When you give them 1 year’s worth of back and forth political advertising and depates….not so much.

  5. @Noodle:
    Ah, so one can be unconsciously racist, regardless of word or deed.

    No, that is not what the social scientist said. You are projecting your fears onto him and constructing a straw man, and so is Curm.

    Here is what the article really says:

    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.

    Translation: you just made it up. The social scientist distinguished between racism and unconscious racial bias. They are not the same, as he clearly stated.

    However, if you describe his actual statements, then he sounds smarter than you are. So, in order to make him look stupid, you misrepresent his ideas and change them around into unconscious racial bias = racism.

    That is not what the scientist said.

  6. @Curm-

    Regardless of what you may think are your reasons, if you don’t vote for Obama it’s probably due to your unconscious racism. And even if you do vote for him, you’re probably an unconscious racist anyway.

    Bull. That is not what the scientist said– it’s what you fear might be true. This reflects your own projection of your feelings, and not what the scientist said.

    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.

    Translation: you just made it up.

    Wow, you people feel so threatened by science that you need to misrepresent it.

    If you actually describe the science, you can’t mock it. So, in order to mock it, you have to misrepresent it.

  7. Diogenes says: “Wow, you people feel so threatened by science that you need to misrepresent it.”

    I understand exactly what he’s saying. And I’m not threatened by science. But social science is often a different matter.

  8. Smokescreen alert: Racial bias is not the same as racism.
    Right, got it. How could I have been so recklessly misrepresentative of a social scientists spotless, nonpolitical motives in an election year? Boy, is my face non-Native American red.

  9. Social science
    Political science
    Creation science
    Christian science

    Putting the word “science” after the name of a field of study does not make is a science.

    Attempts at rigorous study do not automatically qualify as “science”.

    The greater role bias and subjectivity can play the less a field of study can be called “science”.

    This does not mean the field of study is without merit, only that it does not rise to the level of “science” unless one redefines the term. There has been a lot of that going on lately.

  10. I think it is quite atrocious to trash a scientist based on a newspaper article about said scientist. You should know by now that the pop media is completely unreliable about science and often dumbs down scientists’ statements until they can be ridiculed.

    If you want to trash a scientist, read his peer-reviewed research, not a newspaper article that “paraphrases” and dumbs down his research.

    (For the record, my doctorate is in the hard sciences. So I don’t think I’m biased in favor of the “soft” sciences. I took a year of social psychology as an undergrad and was impressed by its rigor, which I did not expect.)

    You have to distinguish between peer-reviewed research and the dumbing down it gets in the popular media.

    This distinction is behind a lot of “The Myth of Junk DNA” pushed by creationists like Jonathan Wells. I demand that creationists produce evidence that scientists equated non-coding DNA = junk DNA. The ID creationists provide “evidence” that consists of paraphrases in newspaper articles.

    NO. Paraphrases in newspaper articles are not the test of science.

  11. @Hogan –
    The greater role bias and subjectivity can play the less a field of study can be called “science”.

    This is exactly what creationists say about radiometric dating and the age of the Earth. My reply: you have to prove accusations of bias and subjectivity. That is easy enough: you show that a scientist’s statements don’t match up to the facts.

    Merely making an accusation of bias is not proof of bias. It’s easy, for example, to dismantle creationism by comparing their statements with facts.

    But if you can’t show a discrepancy between quotes (not newspaper paraphrases) of what scientists say and the facts, then all you’ve got are accusations.

  12. They still call it a science do they? Always seemed more like stamp collecting.