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South Polls The Central Theme BY JOHN SHELTON REED The "central theme ofSouthern history" and "the cardinal test of a Southerner," according to the historian Ulrich B. Philüps, was a commitment to white supremacy . But the Spring 1999 Southern Focus PoU is only the latest in a string of poUs to show that soudiern racial attitudes have changed dramaticaUy in recent decades. Differences between southern attitudes and those of other Americans are now the smaUest recorded since pubUc opinion polling began in the 1930s. Moreover, the remaining differences are usually smaUer among younger people than among older ones, which suggests that they wül be even smaUer in another generation. To be sure, many different "Souths" are combined to produce the figures on the foUowing page. These figures wül vary from the Deep South to the mountains , in the Southwest and in Florida, from rural communities to metropoUtan areas—not to mention from black to white southerners. And the "non-South" is an even more unwieldy agglomeration of different communities. But the point remains that, over aU, differences between southern and nonsouthern racial attitudes are now only a matter ofdegree, and usuaUy ofpretty smaU degree at that. 96 South Non-South Effect ofintegration on South have been positive48%46% negative1211 Opportunities for minorities are better in South159 worse in South1830 Race relations are better in South144 worse in South2434 (Asked of those who have Uved in community more than 5 years) In past 10 years, community has become "somewhat" or "much more" ethnicaUy and raciaUy diverse3839 (Asked of those who have Uved in community more than 5 years) In past 10 years, local ______ population has increased "quite a lot." African-American1412 Hispanic3019 Asian1113 (Asked of those who have Uved in community more than 5 years and who said community has become somewhat or much more diverse) Increasing community diversity is good thing4556 bad thing1110 Having chüdren learn about diversity is good way to help eliminate racism8591 (Asked of diose employed, but not self-employed) Employer efforts to hire minority employees too much7 7 too Utde1012 Affirmative action often discriminates against white men4744 More than halfofpeople in neighborhood are same race as respondent6371 (Asked of churchgoers) No people of different race attend respondent's church2721 Parents would not have objected to respondent dating someone ofa different race2937 South PoUs 97 South Non-South Would not disapprove of famüy member dating someone of a different race7080 Would not disapprove of famüy member marrying someone of a different race6880 Famüy member has dated someone of a different race5059 Famüy member has married someone ofa different race'3134 Would not disapprove if famüy member adopted a chüd of another race8894 Famüy member has adopted chüd of another race8 12 Feel "very comfortable" interacting with people of a different race4754 Own racial views have become ______ with age more conservative117 more liberal3132 (Asked of those with chüdren) Chüdren's racial views ______ than one's own more conservative7 4 more Uberai2425 The Southern Focus PoU is a semi-annual telephone survey conducted by the Institute for Research in Social Science at the University of North CaroUna, Chapel HuI 27599-3355. Data can be obtained for further analysis from the Institute . The Institute's survey data holdings can be searched on-Une at: 98 southern cultures, Winter 1999 : John Shelton Reed A South Polls Follow-up In the last issue of Southern Cultures, "South PoUs" reported results from ten Southern Focus PoUs conducted between 1994 and 1998 that recorded verbatim the responses ofsouthern and nonsouthern blacks to the question "What is your race?" Approximately two-thirds of black southerners consistendy said "black" and roughly a quarter said "African American." Responses for nonsouthern blacks showed more variation year-to-year, but "African American" was generally more popular outside die South. The Spring 1999 Southern Focus PoU was conducted too late to be included, but its results are simüar. Among 114 southern black respondents, 65 percent said "black," 27 percent said "African American," and 8 percent said "Negro," "colored ," or something else. There were only 26...


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