Blacks increasingly favor separate party, poll finds

April 15, 1994|By Ann LoLordo | Ann LoLordo,Sun Staff Writer

An article in yesterday's Sun incorrectly reported a statement by University of Maryland Law School professor Larry S. Gibson. In criticizing a University of Chicago survey on black attitudes, Mr. Gibson said, "The questions are so obviously loaded to give the impression blacks are not sophisticated [and that blacks] are single-minded and really are racist."

The Sun regrets the errors.

African-Americans have become more pessimistic and increasingly favor forming a black political party, according to a University of Chicago study released yesterday.

The nationwide survey of 1,206 blacks found that 70 percent felt America's economic system, its courts and society in general were unfair to African-Americans.


In addition, 73 percent of blacks believed they would not see racial equality in their lifetime, according to the study conducted by Michael Dawson of the University of Chicago and Ronald Brown of Wayne State University.

"This pessimism is due in part to African-Americans' belief that the prospects for achieving racial and economic quality are dubious at best," Dr. Dawson said in the report.

Although blacks overwhelmingly agreed on certain aspects of their life in America, Dr. Dawson, a political science professor, would not characterize the African-American community "as single-minded at all. . . ."

The report was based on a survey, conducted late last year and early this year, involving 45-minute telephone interviews with randomly selected black Americans.

As in most social surveys, Dr. Dawson said, subjects were slightly better educated and of a slightly higher income level than the black population as a whole.

The majority of African-Americans polled in the study, 86 percent, identified themselves as Democrats, and 51 percent said they felt the party works "fairly hard" on issues of importance to blacks.

Nevertheless, when asked if blacks should form their own political party, 50 percent said yes. That figure was double what it was five years ago, Dr. Dawson said.

About 14 percent favored a separate nation for blacks, but 86 percent opposed the idea.

The increased interest in forming a black political party was no surprise to Ronald Walters, chairman of the political science department at Howard University.

"This jump to 50 percent gives you the indication that blacks are feeling estranged from the Democratic Party and their public policy position," said Dr. Walters.

Vera Hall, chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party, attributed the support for a black political party to a feeling among blacks that "they don't have a home in either party."

"There is a lot of feeling among minorities that people take them for granted except when they want them to do something, or when they want their vote," said Mrs. Hall, a Baltimore councilwoman from the 5th District.

Larry S. Gibson, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's chief political adviser, took exception to study's findings.

"The questions are so obviously loaded to give the impression blacks are not sophisticated, [the questions are] single-minded and really are racist," said Mr. Gibson, a University of Maryland Law school professor who chaired the Clinton campaign in Maryland.

For example, on the study's finding that 73 percent of African-Americans believed racial equality would not be achieved in their lifetime, Mr. Gibson said the fairer questions to have asked were:

"Do you think significant progress has been made, do you think significant additional progress should be made?"

But Mrs. Hall said she could relate to the findings. "I strongly agree that racial equality will not be achieved in my lifetime, because of the racial attitudes that are ingrained in people that they don't even know about," she said. "I'm keenly aware of the difference in how people relate to me or how they may relate to a white in my same position."

As to Mr. Gibson's criticisms of the survey, Dr. Dawson said that there were several areas of the survey that are "consistent with a black nationalistic philosophy but that this set of questions divides the black community."

"There are sophisticated disagreements about where to go next, what strategies to adopt and what items should be emphasized in the black agenda," said Dr. Dawson.

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