NPR on Bible-loving racists in Ohio River Valley

To the frustration of many mainstream reporters, far too many blue-collar Americans simply refuse to do what the elites believe is best for them, when it comes time to step into ballot boxes (or discuss their views with pollsters, whichever comes first).

This has, here in Beltway land, become known as the whole “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” syndrome. Or, with a nod toward the candidate in the White House, one could call it the “God, guns and gays” mindset.

Anyway, this Kansas template — obviously — exists in other red zip codes across the nation.

Why do blue-collar people — which, in MSM terms almost always means white people — vote the way that they do? Well, NPR recently served up a pre-election story about politics in the Ohio River Valley that gave the Kansas template its due, then went one step further.

The crucial content in this story, of course, comes via a local authority on a secular university campus.

David Cohen, a political scientist at the University of Akron, says voters like these explain how someone can still be undecided in a contest between two such very different candidates.

“This is a population that, if you look economically, they should be voting Democrat,” he says.

But he adds that people in this part of the state are also often very religious, social conservatives.

The region has its share of evangelicals, of course, but many or most of these churchgoers are Democrats who go to Mass once a week — or more.

So what, according to this report, is another X-factor in the Ohio River Valley, in this tense election?

Additionally, he says, President Obama’s race seems to be a factor with at least a portion of these voters.

“But you also have to remember that Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and especially among evangelicals, that makes them uncomfortable,” he says, “so they don’t have a natural fit on the Republican side, either.”

This issue of racist Bible-thumpers is explored, just a bit, in the rest of the report with quotes from the locals — who are said to be reluctant to talk about race, period.

However, there is no evidence — other than the Cohen quote — that this damning connection exists for significant numbers of voters. Perhaps this claim is simply so true that it does not need to be defended and to quote authorities on the other side would be another case of that whole “false balance” argument that is growing in popularity, these days.

But has anyone seen hard, factual evidence that voters — Republicans and Democrats — who are conservative on moral and cultural issues are more likely to be hesitant to vote for African-Americans? Perhaps they are reluctant to vote for African-American candidates who clash with them on the crucial social issues that have been so pivotal in our nation’s political battles since, oh, 1973 or thereabouts?

Just asking. You would almost think that the NPR producers did not realize that a key element of this story could be read as an insult to 40 percent of the American population, give or take a few percentage points.

Like I said, does anyone have any hard evidence that moral conservatives are more likely to be racists? By this I mean journalistic evidence, with URLs and clear attributions, as opposed to blunt statements of mere opinion.

About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Ben

    I will preface this by saying that I suppose religious concerns to be central, not racial considerations, and you are right to point out it’s sloppy journalism letting that quote through without requiring some empirical backing.

    But you asked if there was any hard evidence that moral conservatives are more likely to be racists, and of course there is research on everything. The research in this dissertation published in 2007 “suggests that oppositions [among conservatives] to policies that have racial consequences is guided by racial rather than ideological considerations, as racial thoughts (i.e. African American stereotypes) are activated in people’s minds rather than ideological ones (e.g. concepts of individualism or work ethic). However, economic conservatives are more likely than social conservatives to think about principles when faced with racial policies.”

  • John Pack Lambert

    If you look at the standard attacks on Barack Obama few if any of them play into stereotypes of what African Americans are like. Somehow I do not think most people think most African Americans are educated elitists.

    The Republicans of the Utah 4th District have shown no hesitiancy in backing an African American candidate for congress, as their giving the nomination to Mia Love shows. …

  • Chris Bolinger

    Cohen is an expert on folks in the Ohio River Valley because…? Akron is nearly as far from the Ohio River as D.C. is, and the culture around the river is very different from the culture in NE Ohio. Gonyea must know Cohen; there is no other explanation for why Gonyea selected Cohen as the expert.

  • Ignominious

    Quote: “You would almost think that the NPR producers did not realize that a key element of this story could be read as an insult to 40 percent of the American population, give or take a few percentage points.”

    For many years now, I have faithfully listened to NPR, on the way to work, every morning. After all this time that I have listened, I think it is very safe to say that the folks at NPR very sincerely do believe the stuff they broadcast, and if that means they think that about 40% of the U.S. population is composed of ignorant, racist, knuckledragging idiots, well, I don’t think NPR is at all shy about saying that, and would regard it as just another very unsurprising and humdrum observation, much in the same category as a daily weather report on the temperature or humidity.

    And nobody can say “Dakar!” in quite the beguiling manner that Ofeibea Quist-Arcton says it.

  • Jon Swerens

    I grew up in Martins Ferry, Ohio, just down Route 7 from the towns mentioned in the report. I have much more to say about this poorly sourced report than I have time for right now, but just as Chris says, I say: The University of Akron? AKRON?!? The reporter used a professor from Akron as the framing device? And that professor thinks the Ohio Valley is full of “evangelicals”? They’re conservative Catholics, fer crying out loud.

    Why not call a professor at Wheeling Jesuit University, a *very* highly regarded and ranked school right in the center of the area? Or, if thinking about calling a Jesuit school gives the reporter night sweats, he could have contacted West Liberty University, a small public university.

    This is not a difficult story to understand, if you just talk to people who live there.

  • Sarah

    Hey, tmatt. I’m confused about the term “moral conservative.” Is that what such people call themselves? Does it mean “a conservative with morals,” (distinguishing themselves from immoral conservatives) “someone with conservative morals”, (as opposed to someone with liberal morals) or “a person who is moral and therefore conservative?” (as opposed to immoral liberals). Or does it have less to do with morality and more to do with religious observance?

  • Jon Swerens

    Sarah: I think he means those who are morally conservative, but you’re right, the construction is awkward.

  • Ellen

    Reminds me of when Katie Couric toured Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and New Brunswick, New Jersey touring the “great unwashed middle of the country.”

  • http://www.conservativemormonmom.blogspot.com E B

    I know of counter-evidence. While the news media loves to say that conservative Christians hate Mormons and won’t vote for one, a Gallup poll showed that while 18% of Americans wouldn’t vote for a Mormon, 24% of Democrats and 23% of Independents wouldn’t, while only 10% of Republicans wouldn’t. Who’s bigoted now, news media? It would seem to be your faithful followers. The people who actually think Romney is what the press says he is, even though their depiction doesn’t match with personal accounts of Romney (and I’ve read dozens of them) in the slightest. The press thinks we don’t notice when anti-Romney stories hit the front page all the time but only pro-Obama ones, not anti-Obama. But we do notice. We know to read both sides for balanced coverage. How could we make an informed opinion if relying on only one point of view? We couldn’t.

  • northcoast

    Just for the record, I think it is only about half as far to Akron as to DC from the Ohio. …


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