Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Despite Appearances, Racism is Still Declining

The reaction of many liberals to the Trump era has been to decry that racism is rising, becoming a terrible scourge again. But polls show that this is not so, and racism continues to decline slowly in both the US and Europe. The connection between racist sentiments and right-wing populism is complicated:
Empirically, there is little cross-national correlation between levels of racist or anti-immigrant sentiment and [right-wing] populist success. Swedes score extremely low on measures of racism and anti-immigrant views, yet the right-wing Sweden Democrats are the country’s third-largest party. The Irish and the Spanish, meanwhile, score relatively high on such measures, yet right-wing populism has not been particularly potent in either country. Populists have become more politically successful over time, but racist and anti-immigrant sentiments have actually decreased over time in Europe and the United States over the same period.
(One should note that right-wing populists have been very successful in Austria, which is among the most racist countries in Europe. But anyway the correlation is not very strong.)

I suppose one thing you can say about Trump's success is that while Americans may be less racist, they are still willing to vote for candidates who appeal for racist support. Maybe that means their anti-racism is shallow, but maybe it means they just don't care much about race one way or the other. Remember, Trump got more black votes than Romney, and the same share of those with strong views about racial differences.

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