Poll: Most whites say blacks are lazier or less intelligent than whites (3 graphs)

Print More
stereotypes work ethic

America is less racist than in decades past. But racism still holds a surprisingly tight grip on how we view racial groups. It may be 2014 and not 1964, but a majority of whites still see blacks as lazier or less intelligent than they are.

The 2012 American National Election Study included interviews with nearly 5,500 Americans. Among the questions included were questions asking people to rate whites and blacks on their intelligence and work ethic.

Rather than asking whether whites and blacks were equal, the survey asked respondents to place each racial group on seven point scales. They rated both blacks and whites from “intelligent” to “unintelligent.” They also rated blacks and whites for work ethic, from “hard working” to “lazy”.

The results will be shocking to anyone who believes we are living a post-racist society.

stereotypes work ethic

A majority of whites in the survey rated blacks as lazier than whites. Whites gave themselves a score of 3.0 (with 1.0 being “hard working”); they gave blacks an average score of 4.0. A full 53 percent of whites scored whites as more hardworking than blacks. 44 percent gave whites and blacks the same score on work ethic.

For blacks, nearly two-thirds gave equal scores to whites and blacks. While some see whites as more hard working and some see blacks this way, they balance out so that the average scores were basically the same.

stereotypes intelligence

The pattern is slightly better for ratings of intelligence, but it is still disturbing. A majority of whites say that blacks and whites are equal. Still, 44 percent said whites were more intelligent.

For blacks in the survey, the result for work ethic was the same as for intelligence. The vast majority said the groups were equal. And those that didn’t balance out, leaving the average scores roughly equivalent.

stereotypes both

So, let’s get down to brass tacks: How many people see blacks as both lazy and stupid?

One third of whites rated blacks as less intelligent and lazier than whites. Another quarter of whites said that blacks were either lazier or less intelligent than whites. Together, this means that nearly six-in-ten whites view themselves as superior to blacks.

Just under a third see the two groups as equal on both qualities. A minority gave blacks the edge on one of the characteristics (usually hard working). And one percent rated blacks as better on both.

For blacks, views of white and black equality is very different. A plurality see groups as equal. But more importantly, the pattern in the graph is “bell-shaped”. One side balances out the other. Blacks, on average, see blacks & whites as equals. Whites, however, are more likely than not to see themselves as more hard working and/or more intelligent than blacks.

Have questions about this survey? Want more information? Just ask in the comments.

Don’t miss any more posts from the Corner of Church & State. Click the red subscribe button in the right hand column. Follow @TobinGrant on Twitter and on the Corner of Church & State Facebook page.

  • Drew G. I. Hart had a wonderful piece in Christian Century today on the problem of social critics playing “the race card” (http://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2014-12/we-aren-t-playing-race-card-we-are-analyzing-racialized-deck#). The data you report here suggests that if anyone is “playing the race card”, it’s the white respondents of this survey. Blacks are far more committed to social values of equality, even while suffering from its lack.

  • Obadiah Clarke


    I take most polls with a grain of salt. Especially when columnists like yourself leads off with “Most Whites say….” when only a tiny fraction of Whites in this country were actually polled (I’m a Black man and I can see that one from a mile away).

    Beyond your desk, beyond your Google searches, there is something called the real world out there. Are there Whites out there who think less of Black folks? Absolutely. Are there Black folks who think less of THEMSELVES by calling each other “N***a’s, b*****s, etc.? Absolutely.

    Frankly, I lose no sleep over what you or any other White person thinks of me. To do so is to suggest that you have some power over me and you don’t. For any White person to even suggest that their thoughts can change how Black people think of themselves is the epitome of self-indulgence.

    While Whites in this country REALLY saw us as less than human (Three-Fifths Compromise, Jim Crow), many of my people after slavery built their own businesses, schools, raised up Godly families, took care of their communities and created positive legacies. What you and your people thought of us was irrelevant.

    I suggest you deal with the SPECIFIC people you know who have a problem with Black folks OFFLINE instead of parroting these generalizations. Just as it isn’t fair to suggest that all Black people are lazy, it is wrong to suggest that all White people think that of Blacks. White guilt does nothing to address the real issues that are having a negative impact on my people.

    So I think if we are going to have an honest discussion on what Whites actually think, let’s put away the generalizations and

  • “Just as it isn’t fair to suggest that all Black people are lazy, it is wrong to suggest that all White people think that of Blacks.”

    I think one of the points of the article is that the data *doesn’t* suggest that “all” the people of any racial category think one particular thing about people of another racial category.

  • Together, this means that nearly six-in-ten whites view themselves as superior to blacks

    No, they rated themselves more highly on a couple of traits. Interpretation of descriptive statistics is not your strong suit, is it?

    Blacks tend to score roughly a standard deviation lower on psychometric and aptitude and (assessing post-1954 cohorts), have persistently lower levels of educational attainment. Labor force participation rates are about the same, annual working hours for blacks are somewhat lower, and blacks make more use of unemployment compensation, SSI, and Social Security disability. You can make of these phenomena what you will (assessing it aetiologically or in terms of social ethics), but that’s the world your survey respondents live in. What’s your complaint, that ordinary working-class Americans do not exhibit the guises and poses common to college faculty?

  • Obadiah Clarke

    Except for the parts where he keeps repeating “most Whites…”

  • Rese Hood

    Hats off to Obadiah Clarke! Thank you for your clear -sighted response.

    The article disturbed me for several reasons. First, I hate polls. They are invariably attempting to push the respondents toward a desired end so statistics produced are suspect. As Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

    I elected to read through all 161 pages of the survey – self-torture! – and found the relevant questions on page 141. AFTER weird subjective queries on “emotional thermometers” regarding a wide range of groups. AFTER several sections on government programs which assist “blacks” when in fact, they presently are in place for all minorities. Skew much?

    The section also asked comparative questions about other minority groups. Why focus on just the blacks vs. whites? Seriously. Just to keep up with the prevailing media narrative? Why set a higher bar?

    Frankly, #ALLLIVESMATTER. That would really start a dialogue. There have been too many diatribes already.

  • woden

    Blacks are less intelligent, that’s a objective fact. Rejecting IQ test data because you don’t like the results isn’t a rational or scientific method. Anyone who doesn’t delude themselves is ” racist”? Anyone who believes in equal intelligence in lieu of realty and its evidence is a credulous fool.

  • Truth

    I’ve met many blacks that were just as smart as a white person…. most blacks have low IQs due to the enviroment they were raised in.. you people like to call out other people also don’t include other variables.

  • WJM

    Intelligence has both genetic and environmental components. A person’s genes limit his maximum height. Poor nutrition may cause him to not reach that full height potential. Similarly, while environment may limit intelligence, people from Africa, on average, have lower IQs than people from Europe or North Asia.

    The people with the highest IQs in the world are Ashkenazi Jews, with an average of about 115. Northern Asians (Japanese, Chinese, Koreans) have an average IQ of around 103-106, and Europeans about 100. Blacks in the US average about 85. While there are very smart blacks and some very un-smart whites, on average, blacks have lower IQs, and this is primarily due to genetic limitations. This is the unfortunate truth, and denying this fact leads to great harm.

    “Disparate impact” has causes other than racism. The Justice Department’s dishonest report on the Ferguson PD relies almost completely on a “disparate impact” analysis. If, say, black men are disproportionately killed in car accidents, is that due to racism, or something else?

    Blacks are continuously told that the only reason they have less wealth, or are imprisoned more, or otherwise disadvantaged vis a vis whites is due to slavery, Jim Crow, and racism. More courage is needed if we are to improve relations between the races.

  • Dee

    Monkey see , monkey don’t !

  • Pingback: Attitudes on Race (Survey Data)()

  • Pingback: Gun ownership, police and white privilege in a post racial America | Miscellany101's Weblog()

  • Pingback: Police Actually Do Show Restraint – When They’re Facing Armed White Guys – Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP()

  • Pingback: Police Actually Do Show Restraint—When They’re Facing Armed White Guys | Minority Teacher()

  • jess

    The issue with using IQ test scores to make your argument that blacks are less intelligent is that IQ tests are not an accurate measure of intelligence. IQ tests measure a person’s knowledge. They measure learned skills. There will always be a bias in the test. If you look at the history of IQ tests you will see that they’ve historically been altered because the people who made the test didn’t like the people in the geographic area that were scoring best on their tests. IQ tests do not measure a person’s innate ability to learn. We have no such test capable of that feat. The ability to learn is intelligence not what you’ve learned.

  • Charly Mann

    I honestly think blacks on average are just as intelligent as whites on average. On the other hand in my 65 years of life I have been amazed at the high percentage of very smart Jewish, Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese Americans I have known and worked with, which makes me think either they are smarter than whites or blacks or have a cultural advantage to us.

    Does the following make me a racist or just a person speaking for objective observation?

  • Pingback: I Killed Nine People | Grace for That()

  • Pingback: Why Schools Need More Teachers of Color—for White Students | Occupy The Bronx()

  • Kerra

    Hahaha.. Funny article.. Thought it was about measuring job performance of different ethnicities in similar job environments.. Instead, as usual it’s demeaning and steered straight to the racism card. My teacher always said don’t use the stupid word.. Its wrong to call someone stupid. Didn’t yours tell u that?

  • RB

    Racism is fake evidence used to discredit another for gain.
    IQ is fake evidence used to discredit another for gain.
    Your science is fake evidence used to discredit another for gain.

    It spells fear of not being good enough. You won’t even know how to play the game of life. Just an illusion where every one let’s the big guy win. Like golf on business verses a trip to the moon. Turning people off to play elsewhere . The cheater in the board game.

    Every rumor has first been a rumor about you. Yet there is no competition. No one cares. You get the same info and it’s you against the world. Wake up.

    Also, Do you believe this distorted view about IQ, despite we haven’t heard about their dieducation and preparation for the test? No competition is needed nor any game, if only one side has armed and trained.

    By now, don’t you want to know what your made of? Stop bringing people down with scams. Hand them the same tools & practice you had, than play the game.


  • RB

    Life on earth will measure a person’s innate ability to learn. Man and their bias however, will not be judge of the lesson.

    Thank you, for balancing the scales.

  • Justin

    You are completely wrong. If you are going to make a statement it is a good idea to learn just a little bit about the subject at hand. IQ test do exactly the opposite of what you say they do. I mean it is mind boggling to read such a ignorant post. IQ tests judge ones ability to recognize patterns and the time it takes to do so, a rubric cube for example. They have absolutely nothing to do with learned skills. If you happen to do some research before acting like you know what you are talking about to promote an agenda you will not find equations, grammar questions or basically anything that someone could teach you. The only thing that you would need to be able to do is read the test and even that obstacle could be overcome with the someone’s help. This is why a four year old can be classified as a genius. It doesn’t mean they have mastered calculus or know everything about world history, it means they have very good problem solving skills.

  • Justin

    It is a bell curve like the author stated. There are many intelligent and dumb people of every race but when you look at the data overall it paints a very clear picture.

  • Justin

    Why are so many white people like yourself so fast to degrade your race with scientific evidence staring in the face?