Measurement is hard: Imagine that you are asked to perform some basic measurements.
Imagine that you’re asked to measure the height and weight of four hundred people. Now, imagine that you’re asked to measure their “racial resentment.”
The first task would be time-consuming, but simple. We all agree on the way we measure height and weight.
The second task would be quite hard. Most likely, you’d have no idea how to proceed. “Racial resentment” is a complex designation. Most likely, you’d have no idea how to measure the “racial resentment” of those four hundred folk.
Into this vacuum step the nation’s professors! They do know how to measure a person’s “racial resentment,” or at least that's what they tell us. In fact, such measurement is done all the time—if you accept the professors’ professional judgment.
It’s your obligation as a citizen to figure out if their judgments make sense.
Monday, in this blog post, Kevin Drum discussed a new study by Emory’s Alan Abramowitz, author of one of the dumbest political assessments we’ve ever seen committed to print. In his new study, Abramowitz discusses the “racial resentment” of self-identified tea party supporters in October 2010.
How does Abramowitz know about the “racial resentment” of those tea party folk? He is using data from “the October, 2010 wave of the American National Election Study Evaluations of Government and Society Survey,” a venerable survey a gang of professors conduct every few years.
Abramowitz didn’t generate the data on “racial resentment,” but he did accept their validity. It’s your obligation as a citizen to figure out if that makes sense.
You can count us as major skeptics—but then, unlike mewling fellow liberals, we noticed a basic fact long ago: In this country, high-ranking professors often just aren’t very sharp.
Today, we’re going to show you the questions the professors use to determine a person’s “racial resentment.” As a citizen, it’s your job to decide if people should base such an important judgment on the answers to questions like these.
Are citizens loaded with “racial resentment?” Do we know how to measure this trait? When the professors want to do so, these are the questions they ask. Respondents are asked if they agree, or disagree, with the following statements:
“RACIAL RESENTMENT SCALE”Right on their (lengthy) questionnaire, the professors refer to this four-question section as the “racial resentment scale.” (Scroll down to page 19.)
Irish, Italians, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors.
Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class.
Over the past few years, blacks have gotten less than they deserve.
It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.
It’s your decision as a citizen: Can we measure a person’s “racial resentment” by asking those four questions?
For ourselves, we’re inclined to see this effort as tragically dumb and misguided. You can always call something “racial resentment,” of course. But can you really measure that trait by asking those four questions? In our view, the use of the buzz phrase “special favors” makes the first question especially shaky. Meanwhile, the third question is so laughably imprecise that any decent person will want to avert his gaze.
Unless you simply accept this idea: The professors must know what they’re doing!
Here at the HOWLER, we don’t have a lot of regard for the nation’s professors. We know of no group that has failed us more thoroughly over the past thirty years. As a group, the professors have basically sat out the last thirty years—although, in fairness, they've often been away on sabbatical, likely in France. And when they do try to intervene by making their highly expert measurements, they show up with questions like these, tied to a very shaky and very inflammatory judgment.
Our view? In this, their own small way, they help raise high the tribal walls, thus helping the plutocrats win. People! Divide and conquer!
Tomorrow, we’ll show you how people answered those questions in October 2010. It’s true! Many tea party supporters gave the wrong answers to the professors’ questions. But then again, so did rather large percentages of everyone else.
It’s true! When the professors start measuring traits, large percentages give the wrong answers! Tea party supporters failed their test. But so did large chunks of everyone else—although we liberals aren’t bright enough to work such bone-simple facts into our gong-show tribal reactions.
In our view, Kevin played ditto-head in that post, and as you know, we're fans of his work. Most commenters were eager to follow. But how did respondents answer those questions back in October 2010?
If we might borrow from Walter Mondale: Kevin didn’t tell you. We will.