The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Republicans’ views of blacks’ intelligence, work ethic lag behind Democrats at a record clip

Over the last two decades, there has never been a bigger divide between white Republicans and Democrats when it comes to views of the intelligence and work ethic of African Americans, according to the new General Social Survey.

The GSS is a wide-ranging study of cultural and political attitudes done annually by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. The bevy of data is all available here.

Because the survey is so extensive, it can drill down on issues that don't feature in regular national polls. Among them are racial attitudes and views of how the races are different from one another.

And something happened in the newly released 2016 data: The partisan gaps among whites were as wide or wider than we've seen since the survey first started asking most of these questions in the 1990s. It's not that white Republicans' views of African Americans have dimmed so much as that they haven't kept pace with those of white Democrats. But in some cases, the GOP has moved in the other direction.

The biggest yawning gap between Democrats and Republicans is on the issue of motivation and will power. The GSS asks whether African Americans are worse off economically “because most just don't have the motivation or will power to pull themselves up out of poverty?”

A majority — 55 percent — of white Republicans agreed with this statement, compared to 26 percent of white Democrats. That's the biggest gap since the question was first asked in 1977 — though the gap was similar (60-32) in 2010.

The survey also asks people to rate the races on how hard-working or lazy they are, which allows us to compare whether people rate some higher than others.

In this case, 42 percent of white Republicans rated African Americans as being lazier than whites, versus 24 percent of white Democrats. That 18-point gap is the second-biggest on record, behind 2010 (19 points).

The gap is again unprecedented when it comes to intelligence.

As with the previous question, the survey didn't ask people to compare blacks and whites directly, but rather to rate each race separately. In this case, 26 percent of white Republicans rated African Americans as less intelligent, compared to 18 percent of white Democrats. That eight-point gap is slightly bigger than in 2010 (seven points) and 2004 (six points).

It's a similar story on interracial marriage; 26 percent of white Republicans say they'd be opposed to a family member or close relative marrying a black person, versus 12 percent of white Democrats. That 14-point gap is tied for the largest with 2010.

The pattern doesn't hold, though, for affirmative action. The survey asked whether people thought a white person wouldn't get a job or promotion that an equally or less-qualified black person would. While 16 percent of white Republicans that was “very likely,” 7 percent of white Democrats said the same — a nine-point gap that is on-par with previous surveys.

Scott Clement contributed to this post.