Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Attitudes toward Blacks (and sports fandom)

Among the big sports stories this week is, of course, the NBA and racism, this time involving the team just down the road from me (Atlanta Hawks). So I decided to check out the data, see what it could tell us about fans of different sports and their attitudes about African Americans. 
This is a first blush, an initial glimpse of the data, after I merged two connected datasets that include questions on:
  1. how interested respondents are in various sports, and
  2. attitudes toward blacks, etc.
What I've done, after merging, is select out only whites for analysis below. What I'm reporting below are simple correlations on two variables, (1) interest in that sport, and (2) warmth toward blacks on a 7-point scale, so a high score means you like them more, a low score means you like them less.

A positive correlation coefficient means the more interested you are in a sport, the more warm you're also about blacks. A negative coefficient means just the opposite, that less interest in a sport is associated with warmth or, vice versa, greater interest in that sport is associated with less warmth. I've reported only statistically significant correlations.

Positive Relationships

Boxing (.06)
NBA (.05)
NASCAR (.04)

Negative Relationships

Olympics (-.07)
WNBA (-.07)

And that's it. A bunch of stuff, no relationship among whites (NFL, PGA, mixed martial arts, college football, etc.).

What's it tell us? Attitudes about blacks, at least as measured in this survey item, are largely unconnected to sports fandom. The coefficients above are, while statistically significant, relatively weak. If I were writing an academic paper, I might hypothesize that, for whites, sports in which there are large number of black competitors should lead to a positive relationship between being a fan of that sport and attitudes toward blacks. Certainly the NBA coefficient above supports that, at least at the simple bivariate level. Then again, so does the NASCAR number. And what's up with the negative coefficient and WNBA fandom? I have no idea.

This first attitude measure is a bit clumsy, and as the week progresses I'll dip deeper into the questionnaire and pull out something more useful. I should also point out that the survey includes a huge number of sports questions. I just used the most obvious ones. It also includes a very powerful measure of racism, one conducted at the subconscious level to respondents, but it'll take me some work to get it into the analyses here.

About the Data: I used the 2008-2009 ANES panel study and merged the base file with the supplemental data file (not all respondents participated in both, but a couple of thousand did). I have not yet weighted the data in any meaningful way. 

Don't try this at home.

New Stuff (added 12:12 p.m.)

Just ran the sports fandom items against a question on how much a respondent admires blacks. Not a lot different, but similar to above a positive correlation coefficient means the more you like a sport, the more you also admire blacks.

Positives: NBA, NASCAR, mixed martial arts.
Negatives: Olympics, tennis, WNBA, men's college basketball.

So, for example, the more you like the Olympics or tennis, the less you admire blacks -- or the more you admire blacks, the less you like tennis, etc. This is not causality, of course. The college basketball relationship is interesting and confusing.

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