February 1, 2007 / 1:27 PM / 13 years ago

Young U.S. blacks believe in politics: study

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Many young U.S. blacks are as confident as their white and Hispanic peers that they can use politics to make things better, but a majority of young blacks feel alienated from today’s government, a study said on Thursday.

A Los Angeles voter waits his turn during the midterm elections, November 7, 2006. Many young blacks are as confident as their white and Hispanic peers that they can use politics to make things better, but a majority feel alienated from today's government, a study said on Thursday. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

The report from the University of Chicago covering a wide range of social issues from sex to entertainment also found young blacks think rap music and videos are riddled with too much sex and mistreatment of women, even though they are the biggest consumers of that entertainment.

Cathy Cohen, a political science professor who headed the project, said what emerges from the survey is a picture of young black people who “have a complicated way of understanding their world. They are focused ... and willing to talk about issues of personal responsibility.”

Cohen said the study — which surveyed more than 1,500 black, white and Hispanic people aged 15 to 25 and included in-depth interviews with 40 of the black participants — was designed to provide a more comprehensive look at young U.S. blacks than previous efforts.

“There’s good news and bad news when it comes to politics,” particularly as U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, an Illinois Democrat, may try to become the first black to reach the White House, Cohen said in an interview.


Nearly 80 percent of young blacks, whites and Hispanics think that they can make a difference by getting involved in politics and large numbers of them feel they have the skills to do so, the survey found.

But 56 percent of black youth and 52 percent of Hispanics think government leaders care very little about them, while 44 percent of whites think that way. Nearly half of the blacks questioned thought the government cared more about immigrants than about them.

“This suggests that an entire group of young people are saying the system doesn’t feel open to them,” Cohen said.

When it comes to sex, large majorities age 18 to 25 in all groups said they had sexual intercourse as did about a third of those age 15 to 17. More than 90 percent in all three groups backed mandatory sex education in high school and 76 percent of blacks thought condoms should be available in high schools compared to 74 percent of Hispanics and 68 percent of whites.

While 47 percent of blacks and 46 percent of Hispanics thought abortion was always wrong, only 34 percent of whites did.

In addition 55 percent of blacks felt homosexual activity was always wrong compared to 36 percent of Hispanics and 35 percent for whites. Fifty-eight percent of blacks opposed legalizing same-sex marriage compared to 36 percent of Hispanics, and 35 percent of whites.

As to rap music, 58 percent of young blacks said they listened to it daily — compared to 45 percent and 23 percent respectively for Hispanics and whites. Blacks also watched rap video at a rate five times that of whites.

But an overwhelming majority in all three groups agreed that rap music videos contain too many references to sex and that they portray black women in bad and offensive ways.

Cohen said those surveyed were representative of the three groups nationally in terms of education, income and other factors, and that the entire survey had an error margin of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

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