Monday, September 28, 2009

Health Care Racism

Ryan Sager offers this assessment of the correlation between racial resentment and opposition to health care reform:

Whites in the South are the most anti-black group in America; a lot more whites in the South are now Republicans than were at the beginning of the 1990s.

What this all adds up to is that both of these statements can be true at the same time:

1) Many of Obama’s opponents harbor a significant amount of racial resentment against black people.

2) To quote Bill Clinton: “100% of those who are opposing him now would be against him if he were a white Democrat.”

Opposition to Obama is tied up with race because party identification in America is tied up with race. Are there some racist idiots at many of the GOP rallies? Yes. Would there be sexist idiots if Hillary Clinton were president? Also yes. Would any Democratic president be able to reform the entire health-care system — or undertake any major government-growing reform — without significant opposition from roughly the same group of people who are out protesting today? Absolutely not.

I think he's is right. But Sager also believes that a "very large chunk of the people predisposed to oppose Obama’s policies are also racists." As evidence he links to this WaPo "study," which I find extremely unconvincing:

As evidence of the link between health care and racial attitudes, we analyzed survey data gathered in late 2008. The survey asked people whether they favored a government run health insurance plan, a system like we have now, or something in between. It also asked four questions about how people feel about blacks.

Taken together the four items form a measure of what scholars call racial resentment. We find an extraordinarily strong correlation between racial resentment of blacks and opposition to health care reform.

Among whites with above average racial resentment, only 19 percent favored fundamental health care reforms and 57 percent favored the present system. Among those who have below average racial resentment, more than twice as many (45 percent) favored government run health care and less than half as many (25 percent) favored the status quo.

What survey data did they use? How large was the sample? How many respondents identified themselves as Republican? What was the survey's margin of error? What were the four questions that were used as a proxy for "racial resentment"? Were these questions designed to "coax" people into revealing their true racial sentiments? Were the questions open-ended? Were they ranked on an ordinal scale? How was the data coded? How strong was the correlation?

The authors don't reveal the answers to any of these questions.

Could their numbers be accurate? Maybe. But how can we assess the validity of this study if they have failed to provide even the most basic level of transparency?

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