Would South Carolina residents give less money to a welfare recipient if she had an African-American sounding name?
The answer, according to a new Winthrop Poll, is a resounding no.
The poll asked 887 people how much cash assistance the state should provide to a 24-year-old single mother who has children ages 5 and 3 and who works about 20 hours a week at minimum wage.
Half of those polled were told the woman’s name was the more black-sounding name, “Lakisha Green.” The other half were told her name was “Emily Green.”
Those polled said Lakisha should receive $416.21 a month, while Emily should get $416.77.
Winthrop Poll Director Scott Huffmon said the results left him “very pleasantly surprised.”
“When I described this experiment I was going to do, everybody assumed that people were going to give less money to Lakisha than to Emily,” he said, “and that’s just not what happened.”
Huffmon asked the question because a 2004 experiment had shown a significant racial bias in how job resumes are handled.
The University of Chicago and MIT sent out identical resumes to help wanted ads, and the only differences were whether the fictitious resume had “white” or “black” sounding name. The resumes with white names received 50 percent more call backs.
Huffmon said those polled gave the women different amounts, but only based on their ideology.
“The only thing that made a difference was whether or not the respondent was a conservative or liberal,” he added, “and that made no difference in what they gave Lakisha versus Emily, just how much they gave overall.”
Still, other poll questions showed that white and black South Carolinians harbor deep divisions, particularly as far as race-based programs or racial preferences in college admissions to help blacks and minorities get ahead as a way of making up for past discrimination.
About 31 percent of white respondents supported such programs, while 62 percent opposed them. About 76 percent of black respondents supported such programs, while only 17 percent did not.
Likewise, with college admissions, only 14 percent of white respondents believed in racial preferences to compensate for past discrimination —and 80 percent did not. About 60 percent of black residents supported such preferences, while 33 percent did not.
Meanwhile, almost half of South Carolina residents polled said having a child without being married is acceptable, and 83 percent said interracial marriage between whites and blacks is acceptable. About 94 percent of black respondents found interracial marriage OK, while 78 percent of white respondents did. Almost 12 percent of whites found it “strongly unacceptable.”
“We saw some issues regarding race, and the other questions saw that quite clearly,” Huffmon said, “but the Lakisha and Emily shows we’ve come a ways down the road. The other questions show we have a ways yet to go.”
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.