Asked in a 2015 YouGov survey if white people using the “N-word” was ever acceptable, one-quarter of Americans of all races ― including 23 percent of Democrats, 25 percent of independents and 26 percent of Republicans ― said it was.
That’s no longer the case, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey finds. In the intervening years, tolerance for whites using the word has dropped among Democrats, and, to a lesser extent, among independents, even as Republicans’ responses remain largely unchanged.
Eight percent of Democrats and 14 percent of independents now say it’s acceptable for whites to ever use the racial slur. Among Republicans, that number remains 26 percent, with the percentage of Republicans who call the word’s usage outright unacceptable ticking down several points.
Yet, white Americans’ willingness to condemn the word’s usage exceeds their apparent willingness to excise it from their own vocabulary. Ten percent of white Democrats say it’s acceptable for whites to use the N-word, but 22 percent say they’ve personally used it in the past five years; among white Republicans, those numbers are 27 percent and 38 percent, respectively.
The survey was conducted in the days following a claim by former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman that President Donald Trump repeatedly used the racial slur on camera while taping “The Apprentice.”
Trump denied the accusation, tweeting that “there are NO TAPES of the Apprentice where I used such a terrible and disgusting word as attributed by Wacky and Deranged Omarosa. I don’t have that word in my vocabulary, and never have.” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said a day later that she “can’t guarantee” that Americans would never hear Trump using the word.
Americans are split on whether or not they consider Manigault Newman’s accusation credible ― 30 percent say they do, 31 percent say they don’t, and the rest of the respondents replied that they haven’t heard enough to say or aren’t sure.
Those surveyed are also divided on what their reaction would be if it’s true that Trump used the racial slur. Twenty-seven percent say it would disqualify Trump from serving as president, 29 percent say that it would be relevant but not disqualifying, and 30 percent say that it would not be relevant to his presidency. Just 11 percent of Republicans and 2 percent of Trump voters say they’d consider his use of the word to be disqualifying.
The recent shift in Democrats’ views also fits with a larger body of work finding a sea change in the party’s attitudes toward race without any corresponding movement on the Republican side.
Within the past few years, as the progressive writer Sean McElwee has noted, Democrats have grown substantially more likely to cite systemic prejudice as a reason for racial inequality.
Between the years 2011 and 2016, according to Voter Study Group data, the share of white Democrats who agreed that “black people have gotten less than they deserve” jumped from 27 percent to 55 percent. In another survey, from Pew Research, the share of Democrats who cited racial discrimination as “the main reason why many black people can’t get ahead these days” rose 36 points between 2009 and 2017, while the share of Republicans saying the same remained nearly flat.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Aug. 14-16 among 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.
HuffPost 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. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.
Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.