Bringing evidence-based research to bear on public and policy conversations in which race and inequality are relevant.
Although polling organizations first started tracking Americans’ attitudes using surveys in the mid-1930s, during those early years, as Schuman et al. (1997) review, just four questions asked about race (and in the case of 3 questions on a lynching bill being considered by Congress, race was not even mentioned). In 1939, the Gallup organization asked about Eleanor Roosevelt’s resignation from the Daughters of the American Revolution to protest their refusal to allow a “well-known Negro singer to give a concert in a DAR Hall” (2/3rds approved).
But until 1942, no racial attitude questions were repeatedly asked so as to allow tracking changes over time. As noted public opinion researcher Paul Sheatsley (1966, p. 217) wrote in the mid-1960s, “The polls, for obvious reasons, tend to ask questions about the issues that are hot, and it is clear that, during the decade preceding World War II, race relations did not qualify on that basis.” Although asking survey questions about race continues to ebb and flow as public attention to the issue rises and falls, fortunately in the years since 1942, polling organizations and academic surveys have regularly tracked the complicated topic of race in America.