The Influence Racism Has On Public Opinion Toward DEI Programs

New College of Florida’s board of trustees, including conservative activist Christopher Rufo, on the screen, lower right, at a Feb. 28, 2023, meeting at which they voted to abolish the office that handles diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

Tatishe Nteta, UMass Amherst; Adam Eichen, UMass Amherst; Douglas Rice, UMass Amherst; Jesse Rhodes, UMass Amherst, and Justin H. Gross, UMass Amherst

Right-wing activists who have long criticized liberalism and “wokeness” in higher education and helped force the resignation of Claudine Gay, Harvard University’s first African American president, have now set their sights on ending the diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, programs that these activists claim helped place figures like Gay in her job in the first place.

Christopher Rufo, the conservative activist who played a pivotal role in forcing Gay’s resignation, stated this view bluntly on X – formerly known as Twitter– following Gay’s ouster: “Today, we celebrate victory. Tomorrow, we get back to the fight. We must not stop until we have abolished DEI ideology from every institution in America.”

The DEI initiatives and programs at the center of these controversies aim to help organizations identify and more effectively tackle disparities or inequities in their organizations.

In the past year, a number of states have begun to dismantle their DEI programs. Alabama, Utah, Texas and Florida have all passed and signed into law anti-DEI legislation ranging from prohibiting diversity training to terminating all positions associated with DEI efforts. Florida lawmakers have restricted the teaching of what they call racially “divisive” subject matter in public schools, colleges and universities. Legislatures in more than two dozen additional states are considering similar measures.

Critics of these measures say they are racist. DEI opponents are quick to deny this.

Is opposition to DEI programs unrelated to racism? Or does racism play an important role in opposition to DEI programs?

We are survey researchers who study how racial attitudes affect Americans’ attitudes toward public policies. In a recent poll, we investigated what, if any, influence racism may have on public opinion toward DEI programs.

Implausible claims about DEI

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox defended anti-DEI measures in his state by characterizing them as reaffirming the ideal of colorblindness in American society.

“We used to aspire toward the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. of a future where our children ‘will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,’” he said. “Now, Americans are accused of systemic racism for quoting these same immortal words of Dr. King. Up is down.”

But statements by other conservative politicians and commentators seem more transparently racist.

Following the deadly accident that destroyed the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, several Republican elected officials and candidates claimed — implausibly — that DEI policies were responsible. One conservative commentator reposted video footage of a news conference on the tragedy held by Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, who is Black, with the comment, “This is Baltimore’s DEI mayor commenting on the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge. It’s going to get so, so much worse. Prepare accordingly.”

In our January, 2024 survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,064 U.S. adults, we sought to identify what influence racism may have on public opinion about DEI programs. We asked respondents, “From the following list, please indicate if you believe the indicated professionals and/or members of institutions should or should not receive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training.”

The list included medical professionals, teachers, police officers, members of the U.S. armed forces, public sector employees and private sector employees.

Next, we assessed respondents’ racial attitudes with questions that measure their acknowledgment of the existence of racism in the U.S. and their emotional reaction to the problem of racism in the nation. We also asked respondents about their partisan identity, ideological affiliation and demographic characteristics.

‘Huge’ impact on support for DEI

We found that a strong majority of Americans support DEI training for each of the professions we listed in the survey. On average, 7 in 10 Americans support DEI training for medical professionals, teachers, police officers, members of the U.S. armed forces and public employees, while 65% of Americans support this training for private sector employees.

However, among Americans with negative racial attitudes – which is a phrase used by scholars of public opinion to characterize respondents who hold prejudicial, stereotypical or racist views of people of color – support for DEI training was much lower.

On average, only 46% of Americans who believe that racial problems are rare support DEI training; 45% of those who are not angry that racism exists support DEI training, and 38% of those who do not believe that white people have advantages because of their skin color support DEI training programs.

Next, we summed up interviewees’ responses across questions to create an overall measure of support for DEI training and analyzed how negative racial attitudes affect support for DEI. We did this while taking into account characteristics such as gender identity, age, education, income, race, political party identification and ideology.

After taking these characteristics into account, we found that the effect of negative racial attitudes on support for DEI programs was huge. Support for DEI programs was 73 percentage points lower among individuals with the most negative racial attitudes compared to those with the most positive attitudes.

This doesn’t mean that every person who opposes DEI training is racist. But it does mean that people with the most negative racial attitudes are, on average, most opposed to DEI training.

Many Americans understandably wish that the nation has achieved Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a “colorblind” society. But the troubling connection between racism and opposition to DEI programs highlights that there is still work to be done until the nation’s citizens are truly judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

Tatishe Nteta, Provost Professor of Political Science and Director of the UMass Amherst Poll, UMass Amherst; Adam Eichen, PhD Student, Political Science, UMass Amherst; Douglas Rice, Associate Professor of Political Science and Legal Studies, UMass Amherst; Jesse Rhodes, Associate Professor, Political Science, UMass Amherst, and Justin H. Gross, Associate Professor of Political Science and Computational Social Science, UMass Amherst

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

SEE ALSO:

Baltimore Bridge: Utah Republican Blames ‘DEI,’ Black Woman Port Commissioner For Cargo Ship Tragedy

‘Shout Out To All My Real DEIs’: They Made DEI A Racial Slur, Now Black People Are Finding Humor In It

The post The Influence Racism Has On Public Opinion Toward DEI Programs appeared first on NewsOne.

Help Stop Hate! Spread Love

Widely disseminated misinformation is extremely harmful and serves as a catalyst for hatred, violence and prejudice of every kind. This is counterproductive to the unification and strengthening of a nation. News outlets and journalists have a major responsibility to maintain a high degree of partiality and truthfulness that many Americans feel is not being honored. ADL, the Anti-Semitism Defense League is dedicated to offering impartial education on issues involving anti-Semitism to help Americans make informed decisions. A not-for-profit public service organization powered by Love, ADL provides free resources that educate society on anti-Semitism and ways to work together to combat the ancient hatred while promoting equality and prosperity for all people.

Free Download

Share:

Featured Articles

Breach of Contract and Conspiracy to Deprive of Civil Rights: An Evaluation of Potential Legal Claims and Criminal Charges Stemming from the Defamatory Social Lynching of Kyrie Irving

Basketball star Kyrie Irving captured the media’s attention when he faced allegations of anti-Semitism due to a social media post containing a link to the film, “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America.” Succumbing to external pressure, Irving removed the controversial post and offered a public apology. Nonetheless, upon further examination of the circumstances, it appears that Irving might have been criminally deprived of his rights, and could potentially possess a legal claim against his former employer for violating contractual terms.

Send Us A Message

News & Opinions