Sunday, April 04, 2010

Are white cops racists?

Most blacks and many whites assume that white cops are racists.

The General Social Survey asked the following question: "In general, how warm or cool do you feel towards African Americans?" Answers ranged from "very warm" (1) to "very cool" (9). There were only 13 white officers in the sample (and 2,080 other whites). The mean for the police is 3.62, and it's 3.65 for all other whites. No significant difference.

White officers do not differ from other whites in their attitudes towards blacks.

3 comments:

woly said...

Maybe I am reading this wrong but only 13 white cops in the sample? That doesnt hold much statistical power.

Ron Guhname said...

Yes, it would be better to have a larger sample. Maybe I'll find another question that was given to more people.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for posting late (you may not even see this--I don't know to what extent you pay attention to old posts like this), I just discovered this and wanted to weigh in.

In addition to the small sample size, note that the survey only tracks explicit attitudes (and then, only those respondents are willing to report). Boiling down a person's racial attitudes to the predicates "is a racist" and "is not a racist" blurs important distinctions between explicit and implicit attitudes, as well as situational factors. When I think of racial discrimination in policework, I think primarily of non-conscious bias, of the sort established by the famed implicit association tests.

So, to say that because the reported attitudes of 13 cops don't differ from the reported attitudes of the population establishes that "White officers do not differ from other whites in their attitudes towards blacks" is really, really, really, really oversimplifying.