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Why Cris Carter is right about Adrian Peterson, and Charles Barkley isn’t

Charles Barkley says corporal punishment is a way of life among African Americans in the South; Cris Carter disagrees, saying it's an issue that spans all kinds of ethnicities and regions. (Carter's impassioned take, above, is particularly worth a view.)

Who's more right? The data suggest that both men have a point, but Carter is more on-point.

Harry Enten over at FiveThirtyEight crunched some numbers on views of spanking, using the University of Chicago's annual General Social Survey. The takeaways from his post:

1) Support for corporal punishment is down in recent decades, but more than 70 percent of people still say it's okay to spank your child.

2) Born-again Christians are more likely to believe in spanking than others.

3) Blacks are more likely to believe in spanking than whites.

4) The South is more pro-spanking than any other region.

These last two points would seem to confirm Barkley's hypothesis. But if you look a little more closely, you'll see that the gaps are actually not that big. While 85 percent of blacks agree with spanking, 73 percent of whites do, according to 2012 data.

You might look at that and say, Well, yes, but "spanking" isn't exactly a good approximation of what Adrian Peterson stands accused of. This is true. Perhaps a better approximation (though still not ideal) would be those who "strongly agree" that spanking is OK — rather than merely "agree." These folks, logic would suggest, would be more likely to believe in more severe forms of corporal punishment (although not necessarily, we would argue, causing the kinds of injuries that Peterson's son suffered).

In this case, the racial gap is bigger — 15 points. But you've still got 40 percent of blacks and 25 percent of whites agreeing. So it's not as if this is something that exists in black America but not in white America.

The differences are about the same when you look at the various regions.

While the South is still clearly more strongly in favor of corporal punishment, parts of it aren't a whole lot more in favor than the Midwest, for example. It's a continuum.

But a funny thing happens when you look at race within the South.

Then, you find, the gap between black and white is smaller. Here's the eastern/Atlantic portion of the South:

And in the mid-South:

And the western portion of the South:

In all three cases, the gap between black and white on both "strongly agree" and overall "agree" is 10 points or less — not a massive difference.

And Barkley's admonition that "every black parent in the South is going to be in jail under [Peterson's] circumstances" isn't really borne out by the data.