And the distinction is very important.
Noah Smith recently fired this over the Twitters:
Well, WE HAZ DATAZ. And we like sharing. According to a poll by the AP, the Republican Party does contain more racists, but that’s damning with faint praise (boldface mine):
Racial prejudice has increased slightly since 2008 whether those feelings were measured using questions that explicitly asked respondents about racist attitudes, or through an experimental test that measured implicit views toward race without asking questions about that topic directly.
In all, 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56 percent, up from 49 percent during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell….
Most Americans expressed anti-Hispanic sentiments, too. In an AP survey done in 2011, 52 percent of non-Hispanic whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes. That figure rose to 57 percent in the implicit test…
The poll finds that racial prejudice is not limited to one group of partisans. Although Republicans were more likely than Democrats to express racial prejudice in the questions measuring explicit racism (79 percent among Republicans compared with 32 percent among Democrats), the implicit test found little difference between the two parties. That test showed a majority of both Democrats and Republicans held anti-black feelings (55 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans), as did about half of political independents (49 percent).
The findings of the poll are here (Oct. 28), although, frustratingly, there are no crosstabs, so it’s hard to tease apart confounding effects (I would really like to see how age affects these results). Two key points:
1) Democrats seem to be more aware that racism is wrong and consciously try to avoid being racists more than Republicans.
2) There is a lot of ‘silent’ prejudice, perhaps even subconscious, with Democrats being slightly less prejudiced.
So I disagree with Noah–the Republicans are somewhat more racist than Democrats but not that much. Nonetheless, Democrats, in spite of their prejudices nominated a black man, whereas the Republican Party leaders cynically and actively choose to run on the strategy of “Can you believe they nominated a black man?!”
The essential difference is that the Democratic Party attempts to transcend, however imperfectly, our nation’s history of racial bigotry, while the modern Republican Party caters to it in order to gain political power.
This is the post-Eisenhower Republican Party’s Original Sin.