05/09/2014 05:39 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Was Wrong: More White Americans Believe In Racism Than Ghosts

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made waves Sunday when he said "more whites believe in ghosts than believe in racism." But a new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows that statement is not true.

Of course, few Americans are likely to think that racists or racism are purely imaginary, like unicorns. But in a follow-up article in Time magazine, Abdul-Jabbar clarified that "polls show that more whites believe in ghosts than believe racism is a problem in America."

The HuffPost/YouGov poll, though, shows that the vast majority of Americans, including white Americans, do think that racism is a problem, while less than half believe in ghosts.

Overall, 79 percent of Americans in the poll said "racism is still a problem in American life," while only 16 percent said it was not. Among white Americans, 77 percent said racism is a problem, with 18 percent saying it is not. In fact, 57 percent of Americans, including 58 percent of white Americans, said they know someone who is racist.

By contrast, only 40 percent of Americans, and 38 percent of white Americans, said they believe in ghosts.

Of course, some white Americans may believe that racism is a problem, but that white people are now its primary victims -- a claim sometimes made by opponents of affirmative action policies. The HuffPost/YouGov poll did not specify which type of racism it was asking about. But a Gallup poll conducted in 2008 found white Americans were more likely to say that "racism against blacks is a widespread problem in the U.S." (51 percent) than to say that "racism against whites" is (42 percent).

On the other hand, the same Gallup poll found a plurality of white Americans said racism plays a minor role, rather than a major role, in black Americans' education levels, incomes or life expectancy. But whites were more likely to say that racism is a major factor in the higher percentage of blacks in prison, with 44 percent saying it is and 33 percent saying it's a minor factor.

Other polls have similarly shown that relatively few white Americans say African-Americans experience "a great deal" or "a lot" of racism, as noted by North Carolina State University political science professor Michael Cobb in a recent article evaluating Abdul-Jabbar's claims.

But the HuffPost/YouGov poll shows little support for a statement as dramatic as Abdul-Jabbar's. Instead, significantly more white Americans believe in racism than in ghosts.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted May 6-7 among 1,000 U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here.



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