The New Republic has come up with a new way to drag conservatism through the mud---Simply describe racists as "racially conservative." Get it? They are implying that if you are a conservative then you must somehow be a racist. Your humble correspondent caught them using this term in a story headlined on The New Republic front page as: "Are People Who Hang Up On Pollsters More Racist Than Those Who Don't?" The story itself pretty much goes nowhere since no voting trend by people who refuse to talk to pollsters can be discerned. However, the story does link conservatism with racism (emphasis mine):
Scott Keeter, director of survey research at Pew, added that while there was evidence a decade ago that people with racially conservative views were likely to put their receivers down, that trend has diminished. "In 1997, the first time we did [an experiment], we did find a small--I emphasize small--degree of potential bias in under-representing racial conservatism, but we are talking about a percentage point or two, barely statistically significant," he said. "This problem, if it was a serious problem in the 1980s or early 1990s, is not a problem any longer." He said the inaccurate polling in New Hampshire was probably the result "a collection of intense political forces unlikely to be repeated anytime soon," ranging from Obama's victory in Iowa to Clinton's infamous misty eyes just before the New Hampshire vote.
In the first instance of the term, the author of this story, Seyward Darby, was supposedly paraphrasing Scott Keeter of the Pew Research Center. The second instance using "racial conservatism" seems to be a direct quote from Scott Keeter. I did a Google search on Keeter and, if he did indeed use this term, then it is the only time he did so. In any case, this is yet another attempt, whether by Keeter or The New Republic, to link conservatism with racism.
As for the premise of the story, it pretty much fizzles out from the get-go:
In a January op-ed in The New York Times, Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, warned that the disparity between polls and the outcome in the New Hampshire Democratic primary--Clinton beat Obama despite polls showing him with an advantageous margin--could have been due, in part, to the fact that less affluent whites are more likely to hang up on pollsters. "These whites who do not respond to surveys tend to have more unfavorable views of blacks than respondents who do the interviews," Kohut wrote.
So with the media now reviving questions about how race affects voters' decision-making, should we be worried that polling numbers under-represent racists (or anyone else, for that matter)? Several pollsters I spoke to this week said there isn't a notable disparity between the types of people who answer questions and those who do not. John Zogby, president and CEO of Zogby International, told me that over the past few decades, there has been a "democratization of refusals" and that there is a 95-percent confidence rate in polls' accuracy. "In the early days--this was before answering machines and all of the other screening devices--the refusal... used to be the purview of the affluent, and now the blocked call that comes in just runs across the board demographically," Zogby said. Similarly, Charles Franklin, co-founder of Pollster.com, said there isn't a notable partisan divide between people who agree to polls and those who refuse. "If every Republican hung up and every Democrat did an interview, the profession would be in a crisis," he said.
So despite the sensationalist headline on the front page of The New Republic, here is the final conclusion in the story:
So, whether refusals are hard (the receiver slam), soft (the polite decline), or forced (the non-answer, or the midway interruption), pollsters agree they are unlikely to affect survey numbers adversely.
Hopefully the term "racially conservative" will die as quick a death as the premise of this story.