Terry Mattingly is on the warpath against the elitist prejudice that working class white people, aka social conservatives, harbor racial prejudice. The sinner in this case is NPR's Don Gonyea, reporting on the state of electoral play in the southeastern Ohio county of Jefferson--as well as the "local authority on a secular university campus" who served as Gonyea's expert source:
David Cohen, a political scientist at the University of Akron, says voters like these explain how someone can still be undecided in a contest between two such very different candidates.
"This is a population that, if you look economically, they should be voting Democrat," he says.
But he adds that people in this part of the state are also often very religious, social conservatives.
Additionally, he says, President Obama's race seems to be a factor with at least a portion of these voters.
"But you also have to remember that Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and especially among evangelicals, that makes them uncomfortable," he says, "so they don't have a natural fit on the Republican side, either."
There is, tmatt complains, "no evidence--other than the Cohen quote--that this damning connection exists for significant numbers of voters." (Note that the damning connection, so far as he's concerned, is racism, not anti-Mormonism.) Actually Gonyea does provide some evidence for the connection; namely, that whereas John Kerry carried Jefferson County albeit losing Ohio in 2004, Barack Obama lost It even as he won the Buckeye State in 2008.
But tmatt is not satisfied. Does anyone, he asks, "have any hard evidence that moral conservatives are more likely to be racists? By this I mean journalistic evidence, with URLs and clear attributions, as opposed to blunt statements of mere opinion."
I would have thought he'd remember the mild journalistic hoopla earlier this year when two social scientiests (from the secular Brock University campus in St. Catherine's, Ontario) published a study showing that children with low I.Q.'s are more likely to grow up to be social conservatives with racist and homophobic attitudes. Then there was former WaPo Political Bigfoot-turned-Columbia Journalism Prof. Tom Edsall's long thumbsucker in the NYT last June, reviewing the data on how and why white working class voters have been trending Republican.
What I'd particularly recommend, however, is Eric Transby and Dennis Hartmann's 2008 article in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, "Critical Whiteness Theories and the 'Evangelical Race Problem': Extending Emerson and Smith's Divided By Faith." Building on the work of two evangelical-friendly scholars, Transby and Hartmann show pretty persuasively that white conservative Protestants are "more likely than other whites to believe that their race is very important to their identity."
Among the findings that emerge from their multiple regression analysis: "White conservative Protestants are about 40 percent more likely than others to believe that African Americans only somewhat or do not at all share their vision of American society." Could that be why the folks in Jefferson County voted for elitist liberal Democrat Kerry but didn't vote for elitist liberal Democrat Barack Obama?
I'd say, in short, that Cohen was in a position to cite hard pretty good social science evidence for the soundbite Gonyea elicited from him. Since when do news stories provide bibliographies?