Reaching Beyond Race / Edition 1

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If white Americans could reveal what they really think about race, without the risk of appearing racist, what would they say? In this elegantly written and innovative book, Paul Sniderman and Edward Carmines illuminate aspects of white Americans' thinking about the politics of race previously hidden from sight. And in a thoughtful follow-up analysis, they point the way toward public policies that could gain wide support and reduce the gap between black and white Americans.

Their discoveries will surprise pollsters and policymakers alike. The authors show that prejudice, although by no means gone, has lost its power to dominate the political thinking of white Americans. Concentrating on the new race-conscious agenda, they introduce a method of hidden measurement which reveals that liberals are just as angry over affirmative action as conservatives and that racial prejudice, while more common among conservatives, is more powerful in shaping the political thinking of liberals. They also find that the good will many whites express for blacks is not feigned but represents a genuine regard for blacks, which they will stand by even when given a perfectly acceptable excuse to respond negatively to blacks.

More crucially, Sniderman and Carmines show that the current impasse over race can be overcome if we remember what we once knew. The strongest arguments in behalf of equality for black Americans reach beyond race to the moral principles that give the issue of race itself a moral claim on us.

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Editorial Reviews


Sniderman and Carmines's discussion of stratagems to trick poll respondents into revealing their real views about race...makes the book worthwhile. Moreover, their sense of American sentiment is very likely right. Most Americans do agree, intellectually at least, that people should be judged for themselves, not for their race.
— Ellis Cose

Washington Post

[Paul Sniderman and Edward Carmines] have devised a novel polling experiment to test just how tolerant whites who express positive views of blacks really are. And they do it without tipping off respondents to what they're doing. They've described their test—and other equally innovative experiments—in an important and controversial new book.
— Richard Morin

Newsweek - Ellis Cose
Sniderman and Carmines's discussion of stratagems to trick poll respondents into revealing their real views about race...makes the book worthwhile. Moreover, their sense of American sentiment is very likely right. Most Americans do agree, intellectually at least, that people should be judged for themselves, not for their race.
Washington Post - Richard Morin
[Paul Sniderman and Edward Carmines] have devised a novel polling experiment to test just how tolerant whites who express positive views of blacks really are. And they do it without tipping off respondents to what they're doing. They've described their test--and other equally innovative experiments--in an important and controversial new book.
American Political Science Association
In this remarkable book, Paul M. Sniderman and Edward G. Carmines offer fresh insights into American attitudes toward race that challenge much conventional thinking about racial politics and policies. Building on these insights the authors develop a persuasive argument for a new coalition, based on widely-shared moral convictions, to address the mounting problems of America's disadvantaged. At once a work of exceptional technical sophistication, passionate advocacy and writing elegance, Reaching Beyond Race is a book that will help all Americans, not just social scientists, think more clearly about our most enduring social problem...Its lessons are powerful, its messages are clear and beautifully delivered, and its contributions to our national conversation about race could not have come at a more appropriate time.
Nathan Glazer
This very important book adds a new dimension to the argument over affirmative action. The findings contradict the view that race prejudice is at bottom the reason for opposition to affirmative action, and do demonstrate a generosity in the American people that is not presently credited.
William L. Miller
This book deals with issues of crucial importance to American society. It is not merely scholarly, but distinguished. That is to say, that it deals with an important subject of wide general interest, but with subtle and precise reasoning, and innovative but clear and convincing methods...The ingenuity of the 'experiments' with public opinion will delight the professional reader, while their clarity, appropriateness and convincingness will make the text accessible and persuasive to the more general reader...The great virtue of this book is the use of ingenious methods that are easy to understand. Instead of plumbing the depths of statistical obscurity they have the effect of making the reader feel: 'yes, that is the obvious way to test that'; 'why didn't I think of that?'; or 'why don't other survey researchers do that?' The 'experiments' as Sniderman and Carmines call them have that admirable but elusive quality of being 'obvious, after the event'.
Barbara W. White
The authors are continuing efforts to bring a clearer, more rational understanding of the issue of race and politics in the United States. This book explores some of the salient contemporary perceptions and premises regarding the resilience of the racial divide and its effect on domestic policy and political discourse. Using various experiments that are designed to expand on or correct some of the difficulties of standard public opinion polls, the authors present their hypotheses and efforts to ground in evidence the tests used to more explicitly identify racial attitudes as they reflected in policy decisions and policy directions. The book goes beyond a mere reporting of the results of experiments, but use the findings to suggest how racial chasms can be overcome by arguments that can be used to garner support and less divisiveness for social policy development. There are findings that will be provocative to readers on all sides of political ideology arguments. The chapters on Affirmative Action and Color-Blind Politics are especially interesting and effectively presented, especially in light of today's debate on these topics. This book fits into the literature of several fields: political science, policy sciences, sociology, social work, ethnic studies, and public affairs...The case is well presented and should advance debate not only among scholars, but politicians and policy advocates, also.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this narrowly focused study of racial attitudes, the authors assert that, while significant opposition to affirmative action is more common on the political right, it is more powerful on the political left. Opposition on the left is based not on prejudice but principle, which the authors dub "the American Creed," or a commitment to liberty, equality and fair play. Liberals are less likely to voice opposition, while conservatives feel free to express disapproval of any government-sponsored social programs. Sniderman and Carmines, professors of political science at, respectively, Stanford and Indiana University, base their conclusions on their interpretations of National Election Study surveys from 1986 to 1994, General Social Surveys conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago from 1972 to 1996 and the UC- Berkeley Race and Politics study of 1991. They claim that the popularly perceived gap between white and black support of affirmative action is nowhere near as great as currently believed. Affirmative action policies could gain support from a coalition of white and black Americans, they declare, if our political leaders can reach "beyond race" and implement social programs under the banner of the moral principles to which all Americans are already committed. Ultimately, this book's limited scope, dubious assertions and simplistic solution offer little of substance to the current debate over affirmative action. (Sept.)
Andrew Hacker
"With funds from the National Science Foundations, [Paul Sniderman and Edward Carmines] hired interviews to telephone 3,678 whie Americans in order to elicit their opinions on race.....The answers showed that whites were willing to criticize fellow whites whom they felt were abusing government entitlement programs or toer wise actived irresponsibly. In the same vein, while few favored aid designed expressly for black, more supported the same measures if they were open to all races....Extrapolating from these responses, Sniderman and Carmines concluded that most white Americans "consistently profess good will toward blacks."...What should be understood however, is that when whites talk about race, they have animage of themselves they wish to convey." -- The New York Review of Books
Kirkus Reviews
A fascinating analysis of white Americans' attitudes on race, by two political scientists who argue strenuously, though not entirely convincingly, that our leaders would be more effective in forging multiracial consensus and coalition to improve social and economic access for all citizens if they appealed to "moral principles that reach beyond race."

Conscious of contemporary Americans' growing cynicism about both race and public-opinion polls, Sniderman (Stanford Univ.) and Carmines (Indiana Univ.) devised techniques using computer-assisted public-opinion research to uncover attitudes among white respondents that might otherwise be obscured by self-conscious efforts to make their answers conform to "politically correct" standards. The good news is that the resulting findings document not only a definitive decrease in overt bigotry among whites, but also an increase in good will and positive attitudes toward blacks. Nonetheless, the data also show an overwhelming rejection of race-conscious policies like affirmative action—even among whites who display the most racially tolerant attitudes. In fact, Sniderman and Carmines offer data showing that resistance to policies like affirmative action is linked not to latent or persistent prejudice, as many assume, but rather to a sense of its violation of American ideals of justice. As Americans try to forge a new consensus in a racially polarized society, this is a useful lesson in the reality that matters besides race often shape people's response to racial issues. But there is also the paradoxical correlative—which the authors underplay to the detriment of their argument—that unexamined racial attitudes are also played out in every aspect of daily life.

This monograph's exploration of undisclosed racial attitudes among whites is challenging, but the analysis and conclusions about how to pull a racially fragmented society together are less impressive.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674145795
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/1999
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 0.48 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 8.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul M. Sniderman is Professor of Political Science at Stanford University.

Edward G. Carmines is Rudy Professor of Political Science at Indiana University.

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Table of Contents

Tangled Politics

Affirmative Action's Vortex

Prejudice and Politics

Color-Blind Politics

Liberalism's Predicament

Note on the Surveys






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