In a report that’s likely to raise a lot of hackles, the Berkeley-based Greenlining Institute – which advocates for communities of color – has concluded that there’s “a startling racial dimension to the ongoing debate about efforts to repeal or de-fund the national healthcare reform law enacted last year.”
“Race seems to be the big, unmentioned elephant in the room in the healthcare debate,” Greenlining Institute Research Director Daniel Byrd said in a news release. “Not only are blacks, Latinos, and other people of color more likely than whites to support the healthcare law, whites who show evidence of bias – what social scientists call ‘racial resentment’ – are more likely to oppose it than whites who aren’t racially resentful.”
To be clear: They do not conclude that all who oppose the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 are racists.
Byrd, along with Greenlining Health Program Managers Carla Saporta and Rosa Martinez, based their report upon data from the summer 2010 Panel Recontact wave of the 2008-2009 American National Election Studies, a survey conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and Stanford University that’s widely used by social scientists studying political behavior.
In the survey, 38.4 percent of whites supported the healthcare law, compared to 78.6 percent of blacks, 52.6 percent of Latinos and 43.6 of people from other racial groups. Although the researchers concluded there’s not enough data in the ANES survey to determine why that’s so, it’s not terribly surprising, given the undisputed health-care disparities that exist in America today: people of color are more likely to be uninsured and have higher rates of various ailments compared to whites. Put simply, whites generally tend to already be better off in terms of health care.
But the bias element is something else entirely. The Greenlining people concluded that “racially resentful whites were less likely to support the law than non-resentful whites, even after controlling for such factors as income, age, educational attainment, employment status, political ideology, and whether or not the respondent had health insurance.”
The ANES determines “racial resentment” by seeking responses to these statements:
- 1. “Irish, Italians, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors.”
2. “Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for Blacks to work their way out of the lower class.”
3. “Over the past few years, Blacks have gotten less then they deserve.”
4. “It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if Blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as Whites.”
The Greenlining researchers found that whites who rate low in racial resentment according to the ANES tend to link their support of the health care reforms to their support of President Barack Obama – if they like the President, they’re more likely to like the law.
“In contrast, for whites high in racial resentment, Obama is not a factor in their attitudes towards the health care reform law. Instead their attitude towards blacks as a group, specifically the belief that blacks do not work hard, is related to their attitude towards the recently passed health care reform law,” they wrote. “Whites who are more racially resentful are less likely to support the health care reform law when compared to whites who are not racially resentful.”