USA Today and the Daily Mail touted that a majority of white Americans feel discriminated against, pointing to a new poll as its evidence for the dramatic claim. But, USA Today‘s headline and the Daily Mail‘s story misinterpreted the poll, which in fact only reported that less than 20% of white Americans have felt discriminated against.
In reality, the poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, shows that a majority (55%) of white Americans think discrimination against whites “exists” — not that they themselves “feel” discriminated against. But, where USA Today went wrong was by slapping an inaccurate headline, “Majority of white Americans feel discriminated against: poll.” NPR’s report on the NPR poll explains:
“Notable, however, is that while a majority of whites in the poll say discrimination against them exists, a much smaller percentage say that they have actually experienced it. Also important to note is that 84 percent of whites believe discrimination exists against racial and ethnic minorities in America today.”
In addition to the errors in reporting, the media coverage skewed toward covering the opinion of white Americans instead of African Americans and Latinos. “The poll was about Discrimination in America, with the current report focusing on discrimination against African-Americans, more than half of whom have experienced significant levels of discrimination,” iMediaEthics’ polling director David W. Moore explains. “Yet these news outlets focus on the percent of whites who say discrimination ‘exists’ against whites, while the vast majority of whites admit they have not experienced any such discrimination. These news stories thus gloss over the many and very significant findings about how widespread discrimination is against African-Americans.”
Despite the headline, the USA Today story correctly reported, “A majority of white Americans believe discrimination exists against them in the United States, according to a poll released Tuesday.” The article notes that “only a small percentage” of white Americans “say they’ve experienced discrimination firsthand.”
After iMediaEthics contacted USA Today to flag the inaccurate headline, the newspaper changed it to “Majority of white Americans believe discrimination against whites exists, poll finds.” USA Today posted a correction atop the article that reads, “An earlier version of the headline accompanying this story misstated the poll result.”
In an e-mail to iMediaEthics, USA Today spokesperson Chrissy Terrell wrote, “The headline has been adjusted to more accurately reflect the poll – and we’ve followed our newsroom’s best practice by including a correction on the post so readers know we’ve set the record straight.”
The Daily Mail also erred in its story, headline, sub-headline and a graphic by falsely claiming that “fifty-five per cent of white people questioned for an NPR poll said they felt discriminated against.”
The Daily Mail‘s headline reads, incorrectly, “Majority of white Americans feel discriminated against because of their race and some say they lose out on jobs because of it.” The Mail‘s story stated:
“The majority of white Americans feel their race is discriminated against, a new poll has revealed.
“When asked if they felt their race was the victim of discrimination as part of an NPR poll, 55 percent of white people answered yes.”
The error also was in a graph, which we posted below. iMediaEthics has written to the Mail to ask if it will correct.
UPDATED: 11/1/2017 10:33 AM EST With response from USA Today