Prejudice in U.S. found alive, well

Prejudice, racism and intolerance still brews around the nation, influenced by politics, ideology and personal perceptions, according to a Zogby International survey of more than 10,000 people released yesterday.

“A racist lives next door,” the survey said.

While 67 percent of the respondents said they personally would have no preference for a white, black or Arab clerk in a convenience store, 71 percent said “most Americans” would seek out the white clerk, the survey found.

“This is a case of ‘not in my back yard.’ Most Americans feel they are personally less prejudiced than the rest of the nation,” said pollster John Zogby yesterday. “But headlines hurt, and ultimately lead to stereotyping. We found that large majorities of Americans are still very prejudiced overall.”

By a wide margin, respondents believe Americans think Muslims are the most likely to engage in terrorism (83 percent). Forty-two percent think Americans would be most concerned about their child dating a Muslim, followed by an atheist (17 percent) and a Mormon (14 percent). A quarter blamed Protestants or other Christian affiliations for a prejudiced society, followed by Muslims (20 percent).

Partisan differences emerged. While 57 percent overall would not rule out an Arab American for president, the figure was 37 percent among both conservatives and Republicans, 76 percent among liberals and 73 percent among Democrats. Fifty-one percent would not rule out an atheist president; the figure was 25 percent among conservatives, 79 percent among liberals, 27 percent among Republicans and 70 percent among Democrats.

But woe to the Republican Party image itself: 62 percent overall agree that “most Americans” blamed Republicans for wars, compared with just 14 percent citing Democrats. Another 56 percent blamed Republicans for global warming versus 10 percent for Democrats, while 52 percent blamed Republicans for prejudice in society. Less than a quarter — 22 percent — blamed Democrats.

“Low approval ratings in the White House and a belief the country is headed in the wrong directions are influencing those trends,” Mr. Zogby noted.

Many still see one party as softer on crime, though, with 42 percent blaming crime on Democrats versus 23 percent on Republicans.

Who commits those crimes? Almost three-quarters said that in the event of a shooting, most Americans would expect blacks to be involved; in insurance fraud, 70 percent said Americans would expect whites to be involved. Men also got poor marks: 93 percent believe Americans think men are most responsible for crime, extramarital affairs (82 percent) and sexually transmitted diseases (72 percent).

But hope, apparently, springs eternal. The survey also found that 55 percent of the respondents said race relations had actually improved in the last 10 years, while 65 percent expected them to continue to become better in the next decade.

The survey of Zogby’s representative sample of 10,387 American adults was conducted online June 22-25, with a margin of error of 1.0 percentage point.

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