June 28, 2013

Redskins poll reveals fans' hypocrisy

A new poll blows the lid off the dubious results of previous polls:

Washington Redskins name: Washington Post poll finds most D.C. area fans support it

By Jon Cohen and Rick MaeseA large majority of area sports fans say the Washington Redskins should not change the team name, even though most supporters of the nickname feel the word “redskin” is an inappropriate term for Native Americans, according to a new Washington Post poll.

The debate over the team’s name has intensified in recent months as members of Congress, activists and media commentators criticized it as offensive to Native Americans and lobbied for change. But most Washingtonians—61 percent—say they like the team’s name, and two-thirds say the team should not change it, according to the poll.

A Washington Post poll found that most D.C. fans of the Washington Redskins support the team’s name, despite increased pressure to change it. The Post Sports Live crew debates whether the name should be changed.

Among Redskins fans, about eight in 10 say the team should keep its name. Also, there’s some evidence that changing it might undermine support from some of the team’s most ardent backers.
Unfortunately, WaPo doesn't quite get the significance of these results. ICTMN helps to explain them:

WaPo Poll: D.C. Fans Know "Redskins" Logo Offensive, Still Like ItA new Washington Post poll of D.C.-area sports fans shows that most (61 percent) like the name of Dan Snyder's NFL Redskins franchise and two-thirds say the name shouldn't be changed. The poll comes as debate increases over the use of the term, considered offensive by many Native Americans, with even Congress involved.

However, among those who want to keep the Redskins name, most—56 percent—say they feel the word Redskin is an inappropriate term for Native Americans. Only half as many—28 percent—consider the term as an acceptable one to use.

"This seems to represent a huge movements in favor of name change, since one would logically expect more support for the team and its name among Washingtonians than among the general population," says George Washington University law School public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

In the new Post poll, 28 percent of all Washingtonians say the team should change its name, far above the 11 percent nationally who said so in a recent Associated Press poll.
It took a WaPo columnist to highlight the poll's key finding:

Poll shows D.C. area is hypocritical about ‘redskin’

By Robert McCartneySo now we know from a remarkable new poll that most Washington area residents are far too enlightened and sensitive ever to insult a Native American by calling her or him a “redskin.” What do you think we are, racists?

But we’re perfectly comfortable preserving the same word as the name of our beloved professional football franchise. It’s tradition and, c’mon, we don’t mean it in an offensive way.

Psychologists have a term for such self-serving intellectual duplicity. They call it “compartmentalization.” It refers to an unconscious defense mechanism used to avoid mental discomfort arising from having conflicting values or beliefs.

The rest of us have a term for it, too. We call it “hypocrisy.” The dictionary defines it as a pretense of having a virtuous character that one doesn’t actually possess.

A Washington Post poll released Tuesday laid out clearly our region’s awkward inconsistency in this matter.

Two-thirds of area adults want to keep the team’s name. Yet those same people agree by a two-to-one margin that the word “redskin” is an inappropriate way to describe a Native American.

To better understand the contradiction, I interviewed 10 poll respondents who shared the dominant view. I asked why they thought the word “redskin” was fine for the team but unacceptable for American Indians.

I heard a muddled mix of explanations. Several said frankly that they couldn’t explain the apparent discrepancy. Others said the word was pejorative but had been the team’s name for so long that Native Americans and other critics ought to just look the other way. Three argued that the issue wasn’t relevant, partly because American Indians, in person or in the team’s logo, don’t have red skin.

The team’s name is “not anything to do with any kind of racial slur toward Indians,” said a 34-year-old woman from Landover. “When I look at the helmet or the jerseys, I don’t see an Indian with red skin. I believe it’s burgundy.”

For individual Indians, however, the woman said she would never use the term. Like others, she likened it to ugly words that disparage African Americans or Latinos. “It’s just not appropriate,” she said.

(The people I interviewed agreed to speak on the record, but I am withholding their names because I don’t want to single them out for criticism.)

A 60-year-old man from Alexandria said he could “dissociate” the separate uses of the term.

“I don’t know that I know any Native Americans, but I certainly wouldn’t refer to them as redskins,” he said. “I have a double standard there, because I think it’s okay to have a football team named that way.”
Comment:  To reiterate the key point:Two-thirds of area adults want to keep the team’s name. Yet those same people agree by a two-to-one margin that the word “redskin” is an inappropriate way to describe a Native American.Wow. 37% of Washington-area adults say "Redskins" is offensive but the team should keep the name anyway. Any poll that doesn't address this "it's offensive but keep it" contingent is a fraud.

In particular, the binary choice of "it's not offensive, keep it" and "it's offensive, get rid of it" is a fraud. And yet, that's what you see in poll after poll.

A large number of people fall into the "I know it's an insult but I don't care" category. This view needs to be explored in depth, not accepted at face value. Polls should ask follow-up questions such as:

  • How would you feel if the team were named the Washington ________ [Niggers, Spics, Wops, Kikes--use the respondent's ethnicity]?

  • What's the difference between these ethnic slurs and "Redskins," if any?

  • Since you acknowledge the name is offensive, are you in favor of offending minorities?

  • Do you realize that Indians still exist, and that thousands of them find "Redskins" offensive?

  • If anyone can't answer these questions, the pollsters should go back and redo the poll, or throw it out. Any poll that produces contradictory results isn't asking the right questions, and the questions it is asking aren't worth much.

    For more on the subject, see AP Poll on Redskins Is Flawed and Annenberg's "Redskins" Survey.

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