ISR Awards

Gauging Racial Attitudes Prior to World War II

Survey data provide systematic evidence on changing attitudes of white Americans toward black Americans over the past 70 years, as the rights of blacks ? and later of other minorities ? expanded as part of the ?rights revolution.? Little is known about the evolution of white racial attitudes prior to the mid-1940s, however, when surveys began to gather trend data. Our first research goal is to investigate those earlier attitudes through a content analysis of a sample of articles in key newspapers and national magazines from the period 1929-46.

Our second research goal is partly methodological, and centers on an investigation of the years 1946-65, a period in which survey data on racial attitudes became increasingly available. Using the same approach, we will carry out a content analysis for these years as well, allowing us to compare the content analysis results and trends with similar outcomes based on repeated surveys.

The broader impacts of the research are twofold. First, the research should increase understanding of the period of the Depression and World War II years with regard to attitudes toward minorities. We expect to integrate the findings from our content analysis with existing research on white attitudes toward blacks during the same early period, identifying similarities and differences. Second, the research will help to assess the value of content analysis of mass media texts for identifying trends in both the absence and the presence of survey data. The attempt to compare systematically two very different types of data should yield insight into the advantages and limitations of each.