When Data Doesn’t Match The Hypothesis.

Professor Daniel Hopkins and student Samantha Washington at the University of Pennsylvania decided to do research concerning racism in the post-Trump election period. They have released a paper on their findings called The Rise of Trump, the Fall of Prejudice? Tracking White Americans’ Racial Attitudes 2008-2018 via a Panel Survey.

The paper starts with an interesting premise:

In his presidential campaign and the first years of his presidency, Donald Trump’s rhetoric on racial and ethnic groups defied contemporary conventions for politicians, especially at the presidential level (Valentino, Neuner and Vandenbrook, 2017). In the elections leading up to 2016, presidential candidates who sought to harness animus toward African Americans or other groups often did so through implicit cues rather than explicit rhetoric (Mendelberg, 2001). Donald Trump broke decisively from this norm. In announcing his candidacy, he termed immigrants from Mexico “rapists,” and he later called for a ban on Muslim immigration and initially declined to renounce a former KKK leader. As President, he said that there were “very fine people on both sides” of a violent confrontation between white supremacists and protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Here is the entire quote from Trump calling immigrants from Mexico “rapists:”

They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Not exactly the same thing as labeling all immigrants from Mexico as “rapists” is it?

Trump never called for a ban on Muslim immigration. The ban was for countries that supported terrorism. Many of the countries that were banned were Muslim, but there is a huge difference between banning people from terror supporting countries and banning people for their religious beliefs.

As to “initially declined to renounce a former KKK leader,” here’s the facts on that:

From a 2015 interview with Bloomberg News:

Bloomberg’s John Heilemann: “How do you feel about the David Duke quasi-endorsement?”

Trump: “I don’t need his endorsement; I certainly wouldn’t want his endorsement. I don’t need anyone’s endorsement.”

Heilemann: “Would you repudiate David Duke?”

Trump: “Sure, I would do that, if it made you feel better. I don’t know anything about him. Somebody told me yesterday, whoever he is, he did endorse me. Actually I don’t think it was an endorsement. He said I was absolutely the best of all of the candidates.”

— exchange during an interview on Bloomberg Politics, Aug. 26, 2015

In 2016:

Question: “How do you feel about the recent endorsement from David Duke?”

Trump: “I didn’t even know he endorsed me. David Duke endorsed me? Okay, all right. I disavow, okay?”

— Trump, in response to a question at a news conference, Feb. 26

CNN’s Jake Tapper: “I want to ask you about the Anti-Defamation League, which this week called on you to publicly condemn unequivocally the racism of former KKK grand wizard David Duke, who recently said that voting against you at this point would be ‘treason to your heritage.’ Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don’t want his vote or that of other white supremacists in this election?”

Trump: “Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke. Okay? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don’t know. I don’t know, did he endorse me or what’s going on, because, you know, I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists. And so you’re asking me a question that I’m supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about.”

Tapper: “But I guess the question from the Anti-Defamation League is, even if you don’t know about their endorsement, there are these groups and individuals endorsing you. Would you just say unequivocally you condemn them and you don’t want their support?”

Trump: “Well, I have to look at the group. I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I would have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them. And, certainly, I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong.”

Tapper: “The Ku Klux Klan?”

Trump: “But you may have groups in there that are totally fine, and it would be very unfair. So, give me a list of the groups, and I will let you know.”

Tapper: “Okay. I mean, I’m just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here, but…”

Trump: “I don’t know any — honestly, I don’t know David Duke. I don’t believe I have ever met him. I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet him. And I just don’t know anything about him.”

Tapper: “All right.”

exchange on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Feb. 28

Trump: “I’m sitting in a house in Florida, with a very bad earpiece that they gave me, and you could hardly hear what he was saying. But what I heard was ‘various groups.’ And I don’t mind disavowing anybody and I disavowed David Duke. And I disavowed him the day before at a major news conference…. I have no problem disavowing groups, but I’d at least like to know who they are. It would be very unfair to disavow a group if the group shouldn’t be disavowed. I have to know who the groups are. But I disavowed David Duke.”

Interview with NBC’s “Today Show,” Feb. 29

The Washington Post has more on the Trump disavowment of David Duke and Trump’s statements don’t match up with what was reported and what the University of Pennsylvania researchers believe.

As to the “very fine people on both sides” quote, that needs to be examined in context as well.

Trump:Those people — all of those people – excuse me, I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee.”

Reporter: “Should that statue be taken down?”

Trump: “Excuse me. If you take a look at some of the groups, and you see — and you’d know it if you were honest reporters, which in many cases you’re not — but many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.

“So this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?

“But they were there to protest — excuse me, if you take a look, the night before they were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. Infrastructure question. Go ahead.”

Reporter: “Should the statues of Robert E. Lee stay up?”

Trump: “I would say that’s up to a local town, community, or the federal government, depending on where it is located.”

Reporter: “How concerned are you about race relations in America? And do you think things have gotten worse or better since you took office?”

Trump: “I think they’ve gotten better or the same. Look, they’ve been frayed for a long time. And you can ask President Obama about that, because he’d make speeches about it. But I believe that the fact that I brought in — it will be soon — millions of jobs — you see where companies are moving back into our country — I think that’s going to have a tremendous, positive impact on race relations.

“We have companies coming back into our country. We have two car companies that just announced. We have Foxconn in Wisconsin just announced. We have many companies, I say, pouring back into the country. I think that’s going to have a huge, positive impact on race relations. You know why? It’s jobs. What people want now, they want jobs. They want great jobs with good pay, and when they have that, you watch how race relations will be.

“And I’ll tell you, we’re spending a lot of money on the inner cities. We’re fixing the inner cities. We’re doing far more than anybody has done with respect to the inner cities. It’s a priority for me, and it’s very important.”

Reporter: “Mr. President, are you putting what you’re calling the alt-left and white supremacists on the same moral plane?”

Trump: “I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane. What I’m saying is this: You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs — and it was vicious and it was horrible. And it was a horrible thing to watch.

“But there is another side. There was a group on this side. You can call them the left — you just called them the left — that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is.

Reporter: (Inaudible) “… both sides, sir. You said there was hatred, there was violence on both sides. Are the –”

Trump: “Yes, I think there’s blame on both sides. If you look at both sides — I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it either. And if you reported it accurately, you would say.”

Reporter: “The neo-Nazis started this. They showed up in Charlottesville to protest –”

Trump: “Excuse me, excuse me. They didn’t put themselves — and you had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had people in that group. Excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.” (emphasis ours)

Clearly Trump was making what is an obvious point. Not all of the people that were protesting the removal of the statue were white supremacists. Not all of the people who came to counter protest were there to attack others with clubs. There were people on both sides who wanted to express their ideas and were suddenly caught in a frenzy of violence from others. We aren’t excusing the violence or the white supremacists that were there. What we are saying is that people can inadvertently get caught in positions they did not want to be in and frankly, do not support.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: We are not trying to make this a post about supporting Trump. What we are trying to say is that the perception of what people say and believe about Trump sometimes doesn’t match facts.)

With the premise or view of Trump from the University of Pennsylvania study in mind, a funny thing happened when they looked at their own data.

In his campaign and first few years in office, Donald Trump consistently defied contemporary norms by using explicit, negative rhetoric targeting ethnic/racial minorities. Did this rhetoric lead white Americans to express more prejudiced views of African Americans or Hispanics, whether through the normalization of prejudice or other mechanisms? We assess that question using a 13-wave panel conducted with a population-based sample of Americans between 2008 and 2018. We find that via most measures, white Americans’ expressed anti-Black and anti-Hispanic prejudice declined after the 2016 campaign and election, and we can rule out even small increases in the expression of prejudice. (emphasis ours)

Larry Elder writes:

But the authors, surprised by their own conclusions, stated, “Our findings contradict both hypotheses, as we primarily found declining prejudice and racial resentment, and certainly no increases.” Hopkins wrote: “Measuring prejudice is notoriously difficult, but we were able to draw on a panel survey, which has posed questions about political issues to the same group of people 13 times since late 2007. Our panel asked the respondents — a representative sample of about 500 white Americans — to rate different racial groups’ work ethic and trustworthiness repeatedly. …

“On average, anti-black prejudice dropped sharply among whites, from … just before the 2016 election to … two years later. … That marked the lowest level of anti-black prejudice since we first conducted this study in late 2008. Prejudice against Hispanics also dropped. … In both instances, declines were larger among Democrats, but they appeared among Republicans, too.”


It is a interesting phenomenon when research and data meets perceptions.

Maybe, just maybe, Trump is not as divisive as some want you to believe. Instead, maybe, just maybe, the divisive people are those who are pushing a false narrative on race issues.

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