In response to a request from New York Times reporter Amy Harmon, I used the General Social Survey (GSS) to address the question: “How Many Whites think Whites are more intelligent than Blacks?”
She made the request as part of her research for this story about how White supremacists are selectively manipulating genetics research, under the banner of “race realism,” to spread their ideas. This analysis didn’t end up in her story, but I put the tables and a brief write-up, with the code, here: https://osf.io/xt4j8/.
GSS asks about both Whites and Blacks: “Do people in these groups tend to be unintelligent or tend to be intelligent?” The responses were coded on a seven-point scale from “unintelligent” to “intelligent.” Without asking people to make a comparison, then, the survey allows us to identify people who rate White intelligence higher than Black intelligence.
For a contemporary estimate, I pooled three surveys (2012, 2014, and 2016). You can see how Whites rated the intelligence of Blacks and Whites in this table. Cells on the diagonal show Whites who rated Blacks and Whites equally. Cells below the diagonal show the percentages of Whites who rated White intelligence higher.
The table shows that 23 percent of Whites assess the intelligence of Whites as greater than the intelligence of Blacks, according to the General Social Survey, compared with 8 percent who said the reverse. This 23 percent is down from more than 50 percent in 1990, but only a few points lower than it was a decade ago. The assessment that Whites are more intelligent than Blacks is more common among male, older, less formally educated, and conservative Whites, and (in multivariate models only) among Democrats compared to Republicans. Here are the marginal results from a linear regression model predicting whether Whites think Whites are more intelligent than Blacks.
This is just one slice of racist beliefs as told to survey takers. In a previous analysis, Sean McElwee and I showed that the tendency of Whites to describe Blacks as violent and lazy was more common among Trump supporters, and Republicans generally, but a substantial minority of Democrats expressed those views as well. Racism, in its structural as well as interpersonal forms, is a lot bigger and more complicated than expressed beliefs on a survey, but I think it’s useful to analyze patterns like this as well.