by Barry A. Liebling
The Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports describe the results of a survey regarding the United States Constitution they conducted early in July 2022. The authors lament that a high proportion of Democrats, younger voters, and those who identify politically as “liberal” view the Constitution as racist, sexist, and a document that should be “mostly or completely rewritten.”
The authors note that most people in this left-leaning group of likely voters indicate that they have a “very favorable or somewhat favorable” view of the constitution – despite the racist and sexist labels. What does this signify and how can the results of the survey be interpreted?
The short answer is that the survey presents the participants with loaded questions – where the easiest way to answer is to rely on your political affiliation as a guide. Responses reflect group membership identification instead of considered opinions regarding the content or origin of the Constitution.
Let’s look at the questionnaire items and consider how a person is likely to respond. The second query on the survey is “The U.S. Constitution is a document rooted in racism.” Survey participants are asked to indicate their level of agreement.
Step back and consider what the question is assuming. It requires that the likely voter knows what the Constitution is, what it is asserting, how it limits what the government is permitted to do, and the motives of the document’s authors. Some participants certainly have this background information, but many are not knowledgeable. Still, the pollster insists on an answer.
Survey participants who embrace leftist politics believe that everything, particularly old things created by white men, is systemically racist. So it must be that the Constitution fits into that category. Progressive leftists are likely to agree with the statement – even if they are not familiar with the particulars or are unable to point to a single word or phrase that is racist.
And conservatives are not immune to how loaded questions spoil surveys. Those who are not leftists know that “democratic progressives” – adversaries of conservatives – regard anything that was accomplished in the past as inspired by racism. So they will be inclined to reject the racist charge, even if they have almost no familiarity with the specifics of the Constitution.
So what does the item on racism and the Constitution really measure? Largely it is an indication of what political faction the participant supports – leftists or those who are not leftists.
Suppose you are sincerely interested in discovering the extent to which the Constitution is regarded as “rooted in racism.” You have to pre-qualify the survey participants. Require each respondent to prove sufficient familiarity with the document and its history. A simple quiz can be used to filter out those who are in no position to answer the question.
Notice that the idea of filtering out people who should not be in surveys is not new or controversial. The Heartland Institute Rasmussen Reports team had enough good sense to include only people who are “likely voters” in their sample. They should have extended their culling process to exclude “uninformed citizens.”
Now look at the next two questions in the survey. Likely voters are asked to agree or disagree with “The U.S. Constitution is a sexist document” and “The U.S. Constitution should be mostly or completely rewritten.” Participants have already answered the racist question so they are in the groove to answer according to what political team they support. Imagine the blank stares you would see if you asked participants “What is sexist about it?” or “Exactly which parts should be rewritten and what should be said?” Of course, some people – the qualified – could answer, but a lot would be stuck.
The authors of the poll indicate puzzlement that the majority of participants, even those who identify as leftist, have a favorable opinion of the Constitution. Why did this occur? Here is my hypothesis. The favorable opinion question was asked first, before the respondents knew that the study was about racism and sexism. Most people, even democrat progressives, understand that the Constitution is an important historical document, but the adjectives racist and sexist do not readily pop up. That is changed after they are prompted with statements that come directly from the woke playbook. Unfavorable ratings of the Constitution would have been more frequent among leftists if the question was asked last instead of first.
Do leftists hate the constitution? Some undoubted do, but many have to be primed with political descriptors before they recognize what they are supposed to say and express their woke solidarity.
*** See other entries at AlertMindPublishing.com in “Monthly Columns.” ***