Saturday, February 18, 2012


The inability of the press to report poll and survey results is astonishing. The most recent glaring example comes from the BBC.  In an online article on interracial marriage,  the second paragraph reads:
The study, done by Pew Research Center also shows increasing public acceptance of intermarriage, with 43% saying it as been a societal change for the better.
I actually found this rather alarming, in that it suggests 57% of Americans either thought it was a change for the worse or were not sure.  But as I suspected, it is the lack of understanding of statistics (or at least poor writing) that led to this unfortunate sentence.  The beauty of the web is that I can go to the original, and find out what they actually said:
More than four-in-ten Americans (43%) say that more people of different races marrying each other has been a change for the better in our society, while 11% say it has been a change for the worse and 44% say it has made no difference.
In fact, the "made no difference" is probably the "correct" non-racial answer; "for the better" is a racial PC answer. The original report also goes on to indicate that this is part of a major change in attitudes over the past 25 years:
Also, nearly two-thirds of Americans (63%) say it “would be fine” with them if a member of their own family were to marry someone outside their own racial or ethnic group. In 1986, the public was divided about this. Nearly three-in-ten Americans (28%) said people of different races marrying each other was not acceptable for anyone, and an additional 37% said this may be acceptable for others, but not for themselves. Only one-third of the public (33%) viewed intermarriage as acceptable for everyone.
 This is also reported in the BBC report, but the contrast is not made as clearly. This is not entirely the BBC's fault, because the questions were apparently not the same in the two surveys.

The Pew report itself is worth reading; among the interesting discoveries (quoting the executive summary):
Gender patterns in intermarriage vary widely. About 24% of all black male newlyweds in 2010 married outside their race, compared with just 9% of black female newlyweds. Among Asians, the gender pattern runs the other way. About 36% of Asian female newlyweds married outside their race in 2010, compared with just 17% of Asian male newlyweds. Intermarriage rates among white and Hispanic newlyweds do not vary by gender.
About one-in-five (22%) of all newlyweds in Western states married someone of a different race or ethnicity between 2008 and 2010, compared with 14% in the South, 13% in the Northeast and 11% in the Midwest.
More than one-third of Americans (35%) say that a member of their immediate family or a close relative is currently married to someone of a different race.

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