Many media sources are promoting a recently released Gallup poll to show that tea party supporters aren’t really all white. Here are the results:
|Tea Party Supporters||All U.S. Adults|
According to the Census Bureau, in 2008 the percentage of “White persons not Hispanic” was 65.6. So it appears that this group was oversampled. We’ve also got an extra percent in “All U.S. Adults” somewhere. (Yes, yes, I know that these things don’t always add up to 100 percent.)
I took a quick look, but couldn’t find the actual questions used by Gallup. But there still seems to be something funny about the data.
I’m a little suspicious about that “Other” category, since other Gallup polls include “Hispanic” and “Asian” in the racial demographics. Those categories are missing here. (I did see one Asian child at a tea party protest, with a white parent.)
What’s lumped up in that “Other”? Having worked in research, I’ll just say that you get very different responses when you allow people to fill in the blank vs. asking them to select from established categories. And that many people who don’t balk at supplying age or gender often balk when asked about race.
Many white people hate to identify as white. (See e.g. Mark Krikorian urging everybody to write “American” as their race on the census.) Especially white people who believe we should all be colorblind and sing Kumbaya together because acknowledging race actually creates racial divisions and strife.
Watch any of the tea party protests, and you will be hard pressed to identify one in every five people as a person of color. Or six in a hundred black people, for that matter. Tea partiers claim that this is because the media is painting an erroneous picture of an all-white group. That ignores right-leaning media sources, of which there are plenty. And it also ignores the fact that the media in general typically likes to try to paint a “balanced” picture, which often means seeking out a person who goes against the grain. (See e.g. all the portrayals of “Asian issues” in the media, in which multiple civil rights organizations will be speaking out about something and then one lone Asian is interviewed to say that the issue isn’t a problem and doesn’t bother him in the least.)
I also suppose people could be “supporters” of the tea party without actually going to any protests. *shrug*
For me, it’s like looking in the window of an Asian restaurant. Don’t see any Asians? You probably shouldn’t eat there. Just my opinion.