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MSNBC’s Tweet About Biracial Families May Be More Wrong Than You Thought

A social scientist crunches the numbers after MSNBC's tweet-gate

MSNBC got itself into hot water this week, after the network’s official Twitter account tweeted out offensive language suggesting “rightwing” conservatives would be displeased by the return of the biracial family in the Cheerios commercials. The implication was clear: conservatives are more racist than others are.

Amid the outrage, retractions, corrections, apologies, and rolling heads (MSNBC fired the employee responsible for the tweet) one question is left lingering in the tweet’s aftermath: is there any evidence to support the idea that conservatives, or liberals for that matter, are more likely to oppose biracial families?

The answer, according to one social scientist, is almost certainly no. But that’s just where things start getting interesting.

Using data from the most recent (2012) biennial General Social Survey—a large-scale sociological survey of U.S. residents—Northwestern University law professor and social scientist James Lindgren crunched the numbers for The Volokh Conspiracy, a law blog hosted by The Washington Post, on mixed-race families and found that 9.5% of Republican families are mixed-race, compared to 11.2% of Democratic families, a statistically insignificant difference.

On the other hand, 11.9% of self-avowed conservatives live in mixed-race families, according to Lindgren, while 11.4% of liberals do—again, statistically insignificant, but with the edge in the other direction, probably because African American conservatives are still likely to be Democrats.

Lindgren writes that the data suggest more Democrats than Republicans could be living in Cheerio’s-commercial-style mixed-race households, but most likely because minorities are both more likely to be Democrats and to live in mixed-race households. “Given that,” writes Lindgren, italics his, “it is perhaps a little bit surprising that Democrats in families with children are not more likely to live in mixed-race households.

Not only aren’t there stats to back up MSNBC’s assertion, but the stats that do exist suggest, if anything, there may be a slight bias in favor of same-race households on the other side of the aisle, among Democrats.

[Washington Post]

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