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 A fascinating analysis of white Americans' attitudes on race, by two political scientists who argue strenuously, though not entirely convincingly, that our leaders would be more effective in forging multiracial consensus and coalition to improve social and economic access for all citizens if they appealed to ``moral principles that reach beyond race.'' Conscious of contemporary Americans' growing cynicism about both race and public-opinion polls, Sniderman (Stanford Univ.) and Carmines (Indiana Univ.) devised techniques using computer-assisted public-opinion research to uncover attitudes among white respondents that might otherwise be obscured by self-conscious efforts to make their answers conform to ``politically correct'' standards. The good news is that the resulting findings document not only a definitive decrease in overt bigotry among whites, but also an increase in good will and positive attitudes toward blacks. Nonetheless, the data also show an overwhelming rejection of race-conscious policies like affirmative action--even among whites who display the most racially tolerant attitudes. In fact, Sniderman and Carmines offer data showing that resistance to policies like affirmative action is linked not to latent or persistent prejudice, as many assume, but rather to a sense of its violation of American ideals of justice. As Americans try to forge a new consensus in a racially polarized society, this is a useful lesson in the reality that matters besides race often shape people's response to racial issues. But there is also the paradoxical correlative--which the authors underplay to the detriment of their argument--that unexamined racial attitudes are also played out in every aspect of daily life. This monograph's exploration of undisclosed racial attitudes among whites is challenging, but the analysis and conclusions about how to pull a racially fragmented society together are less impressive. (26 line illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 1997
ISBN: 0-674-14578-X
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Harvard Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1997