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Diversity Council Rochester Area Racial Attitude Survey

PlanScape Impact(s): Diversity and Inclusion
Public Pinned Report on Diversity Council Rochester Area Racial Attitude Survey led by Diversity Council
Last modified: September 30, 2017




Luther College researchers released a Diversity Council presentation: At the Cross Roads: 2016 Olmsted County Racial Attitudes and Actions Survey




Luther College researchers released a Diversity Council presentation: At the Cross Roads: 2016 Olmsted County Racial Attitudes and Actions Survey.


The Diversity Council first collaborated with a community task force to survey local attitudes toward race in 1990.

In 2006, a second survey was conducted in association with Luther College. The 2006 survey duplicated many questions from the original survey in order to accurately measure how attitudes have changed over time. This latter survey also included additional questions focusing on immigration, and on actions as well as attitudes.

The following work gives an update to the previous surveys.

Read more on the Diversity Council site ...







Work supported by Dunn Brothers Coffee Rochester



PB Front Page Story 2017-09-30



A new study about racial attitudes in Olmsted County finds that overall, residents are more welcoming of diversity in the community. However, researchers noticed anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment has increased.

The Diversity Council partnered with two Luther College sociology professors — Char Kunkel and Ron Ferguson — to do the survey in the spring of 2016. It is the third study of racial attitudes in the county, with previous ones being done in 2006 and 1990. The survey was mailed to a random sample of 2,400 Olmsted County residents. It had a response rate of 15 percent.

Here are five takeaways from the study.

1. Olmsted County residents more welcoming of diversity.

The survey results show more Olmsted County residents are welcoming of diversity when compared to the 2006 results, according Kunkel.

"We have moved in a positive direction since 2006 so that we can see that there are more egalitarian, more positive attitudes about people of color," she said.

2. Less negative attitudes toward certain minorities.

The survey found that respondents had less negative attitudes toward blacks, south Asians, Hispanics and Somalis than they did in 2006. For example, fewer respondents agreed that blacks or Somalis are "naturally" more violent. More people surveyed thought it was acceptable for whites to dine with, date and marry people from all racial and ethnic categories than in 2006.

3. Bias remains a problem — especially when it comes to immigrants and Muslims.

In the survey, it was common for people to express anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments. For example, one of the questions asked respondents if they were concerned about immigration. One of the responses wrote, "Muslims especially — they want to take over. Other minorities OK."

The survey found "there is still a lot of misinformation, bias, prejudice that exists," Kunkel said. "It's anti-black and anti-Somali and anti-Muslim."

4. Minorities view life in Olmsted County very differently than whites.

The professors added new questions to the survey to compare how white respondents and minority respondents view life in Olmsted County. The responses highlighted some key differences. Only 15 percent of whites disagreed they had an equal chance of getting a job while 29 percent of people of color who responded disagreed. While 2 percent of white respondents thought they had been pulled over by police because of their race and ethnicity, 14 percent of minority respondents believed that was the case. Another difference settles around schools. The survey found 15 percent of white respondents disagreed that children of different races were treated fairly in school while 37 percent of minority respondents disagreed.

The survey authors do add a caveat to these results, warning against generalizing too much about their significance because of the low response rate from people of color. Less than 12 percent of those completing the survey were people of color.

5. Residents remain highly segregated by race and spent less time socializing with others.

The survey found that not much has changed when it comes to segregation by race in the county. In 2006, 50 percent of white respondents said they do not regularly interact with anyone of a different race. In 2016, it was 51 percent. In addition, residents are less likely to socialize with others. For instance, 36 percent of respondents said they had one interaction with a friend in the past month. Additionally, 3 percent said they never engage in social activities. This tendency to stay at home and limit social interaction is called "turtling."

"The number of people who have reduced social interactions was striking to us," Kunkel said.

Reaction to the survey

Those interviewed said some of the survey results rang true with their personal experiences. James Robertson II is program director for Sports Mentorship Academy, a nonprofit that works with children who have experienced trauma.

Robertson said he was not surprised by the survey's findings that minorities view life differently in Olmsted County compared to whites. He moved to Rochester 14 years ago from Washington, D.C. As a black man, he said he generally has found Olmsted County to be a welcoming place. However, he said there are unwritten rules that determine how successful someone will be. He said he was lucky because someone took the time to explain them to him.

In addition, he said he talks to the kids in his program about what to do if they are pulled over by the police and the importance of remaining calm no matter what. He had his own experience of being pulled over by the police in 2015 while driving the organization's van in an affluent neighborhood. Police insisted on searching the vehicle because there had been burglaries in the area.

"I had to maintain my cool because I realized that was the thing we are teaching our kids," he said.

Michael Anthony is vice president of student affairs and enrollment management at Rochester Community and Technical College. He is concerned about the survey's findings that few people are socializing with others in the community. That's concerning because he said the best way to challenge negative stereotypes about people is through personal relationships. That is going to take people deciding they want to get to know people different from them. It's not something that can be legislated or mandated.

"I don't think you're going to change racial attitudes until people build really close personal relationships with each other," said Anthony, who also serves on the Diversity Council's Board of Directors.

Why do the survey?

Diversity Council Executive Director Dee Sabol said the survey helps bring attention to the attitudes and biases that exist in the county. It also helps the Diversity Council determine where best to focus its energies.

"We truly need to get to a place where access and outreach are equitable regardless of race," she said. "And racial attitudes — the attitude of a community — is a huge deterrent to that kind of equity when there are negative perceptions that people have."






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