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As America Becomes Less White, Whites Become More Anxious

The Racial Tensions Lurking Under the Surface of American Society

White Americans uneasy with America's shifting demographics. 

White born-again Protestants and white southerners, two overlapping groups, register both the highest indirect measures of anxiety about racial changes in the country and the strongest social-desirability-bias effect. When asked by a telephone interviewer directly about whether an America that is not mostly White bothers them, only 15 percent of White born-again Protestants are willing to agree. But that number climbs a stunning 35 percentage points when the question is posed indirectly. Similarly, the difference between the direct and indirect question among White southerners is 26 percentage points, 16 percent when asked directly but 42 percent when asked indirectly.

The core of Sotomayor’s dissent was that even after significant civil-rights legislation has passed, the Southern Baptist denomination has apologized, and the nation has elected a Black president, race still matters. The data suggest we are still living in a liminal time, when outright racism is nearly universally condemned but when White Americans still carry significant unspoken anxiety and negative feelings about the shifting racial balance in the country.

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