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Washington Post misleads readers with DEI poll

What's the truth about American public support for DEI? Credit: Getty

June 19, 2024 - 1:00pm

This week, the Washington Post and market research group Ipsos jointly released a new poll finding that 61% of Americans think DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) efforts in businesses are “a good thing”, and that support rises to 69% when the concept of DEI is explained in a full sentence-long definition. Meanwhile, businesses around the country are gutting DEI programmes adopted in 2020 and 2021, citing their unpopularity. Can these new figures really be true?

This example demonstrates the degree to which the framing of an opinion poll can influence the results. What, we might ask, is the fuller description of DEI that respondents were offered? It is this: “programs to hire more employees from groups that are underrepresented in their workforce, such as racial and ethnic minorities and people with disabilities and to promote equity in the workplace”. The first thing we might notice here is that the most important word to define in the DEI trinity and the most prone to misinterpretation — equity — goes undefined.

Why? Because for poll respondents to respond positively to DEI, the pollster must avoid disrupting the popular misimpression that equity means the same thing as equality (the core American value of offering equal opportunity to all) even if that means offering us a circular definition. The words are easy to confuse, but equity, unlike equality, means that our measuring stick of success should be equal outcomes across different groups, not equal opportunity. It is out of this concept of “equity” that many of the more extreme policies of the DEI era have arisen.

It also colours respondents’ responses on DEI that many of these extreme (but terribly common) corporate policies are not listed in the subsequent section of the poll that asks their opinion on specific policies. Those that are listed are presented in the most charitable possible light. The policies listed (all but the last achieving well over 60% approval) were “mentorship opportunities for underrepresented groups”, “anti-bias trainings”, “internships for underrepresented groups”, “efforts to recruit underrepresented groups”, “employee resource or affinity groups for underrepresented groups”, and “paying executives more if diversity targets are met”.

Absent from this list are policies such as setting racial or gender targets for hiring and demanding explanations from executives or committees if job searches fail to yield a candidate of the “right” group, requiring diversity statements from job applicants, new company initiatives on racial impact before other business considerations are made, and setting racial or gender quotas for board representation. That’s before we get to donating corporate funds to political charities based on social justice priorities, or requiring employee attendance at trainings based around texts such as Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility (none of which could be fairly described as “anti-bias trainings”).

Another vital (and rarely remarked upon) nuance is this pollster’s choice of the word “underrepresented” when describing each policy. This word is designed to convince the reader that the disparity in question is a problem that must be addressed rather than simply a gap due to any number of factors (many of which don’t indicate any underlying unfairness). To call a group of people “underrepresented”, much like calling a tyre “underinflated”, is to tell us that the underrepresentation must be fixed, and by extension that any initiative designed to fix it is good. It’s a subtle way of inserting circular reasoning into the phrasing of the question.

Considering the source of the poll, these biases should not surprise us. Over the last several years, Ipsos has been a frequent cheerleader for DEI initiatives. As recently as last year, it released a report entitled “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are Central to Good Research: Here’s How Ipsos is Delivering on That.” Among other recommendations, the report committed to altering Ipsos’s survey methods to redress the historical marginalisation of some social groups in its polling. Just a few days ago, the company released “a selection of Ipsos’s latest and greatest insights and data on DEI for business leaders, policymakers, advertisers, and insights professionals”.

We would be unlikely to take the results very seriously if a major newspaper partnered with the National Rifle Association to evaluate public opinion on gun control. Why should we take one seriously when it hires a company with a vested financial stake in DEI to evaluate what today’s public thinks of diversity initiatives? Perhaps we should believe the evidence we see before us instead.


John Masko is a journalist based in Boston, specialising in business and international politics.

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Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago

Whenever, in the latter days of Rome, the city was short of bread the patricians would deflect attention from their own corruption by sending agitators, recruited usually from the criminal underclass, into the forum and the wine shops to stir up ethnic and tribal tensions. Plus ca change, eh?

Will Crozier
Will Crozier
1 month ago

You can just just translate every instance of “underrepresented” to “non-white”. The questions don’t seem as warm and cuddly when you read them that way, but they would be more honest.

Arthur King
Arthur King
1 month ago
Reply to  Will Crozier

I’ve written polls professionally. Language matters.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
1 month ago

DEI Officer for the Hell’s Angels. That’s a tough gig.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
1 month ago

Too many Chapters in the DEI policy?

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
1 month ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

I’ve seen the draft guidance.

Members should no longer refer to their wives as “my old lady” but use the inclusive term their “my old cervix-haver”.

They should only refer to their Harley Davi-son once their motorbike has told them what gender it is.

Arthur King
Arthur King
1 month ago

DEI followers say a woman can a have a noodle. Nothing that comes out of the mouth of these people can be trusted.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
1 month ago
Reply to  Arthur King

Or, presumably, goes in…

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago

DEI is a more attractive packaging for Jim Crow. The intent of both is the same, though DEI goes a step further in using immutable characteristics beyond race to justify who benefits and who is punished.
Of course, WaPo misleads readers. That’s the mission of the Bezos Bugle.

A J
A J
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

It also includes mutable characteristics; anyone can dye their hair blue and claim to be non-binary, thereby bringing themselves under the LGBTQIA umbrella.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 month ago

I know let’s have a carefully even handed poll on capital punishment for serial killers. No?
Governments (and by extension the Elite, the Blob, the Clerisy) generally don’t ask questions whose likely answers they wouldn’t care for.

Walter Lantz
Walter Lantz
1 month ago

It’s becoming apparent that DEI hiring schemes – “Divisive, Exclusionary and Intolerant” aka “No Whites” have reached a saturation point in the private sector. There are only so-many McJob positions where talent or qualifications don’t matter – not everyone can work in HR – sooner or later it comes down to getting the best people. 
The public sector can still afford to indulge in DEI because as Thomas Sowell says: “We should not be surprised to find the left concentrated in institutions where ideas do not have to work in order to survive.”
In Canada we’re waiting expectantly for the end of the Trudeau regime. Some Conservative supporters are pushing to have DEI banned in the public sector but our courts have already ruled (unsurprisingly) that DEI policies are not a violation of the Charter of Rights. You can’t outlaw DEI, but you sure as hell can ignore it by simply removing it from any list of requirements or rewards. Want to be a champion of DEI? Go ahead, but it won’t get you anything. Activists will think twice about working hard to tick off a box that isn’t there.

Kat L
Kat L
1 month ago
Reply to  Walter Lantz

**

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 month ago

“experts in the field insist that the term is widely misunderstood and unfairly weaponized by critics. They tell CNN DEI was created to build workplaces that more broadly reflect all of America and to foster safer, more inclusive work environments for people of all races, genders, sexual orientations and religious identities.”

Like most justifications for DEI it sounds superficially benign if you don’t think about it too much. But in practice the diversity hire tends to be someone who would not have been hired on a colour/sex/or other “marginalised category” blind merit basis. It is also pretty selectively applied. In areas that white males are underrepresented and so not reflective of “all America” there is little concern. In the UK DEI officers are hired in great numbers in the NHS but their focus is not on boosting the under representation of native white males in the service. Indeed it would be rather absurd if great efforts were made to ensure nurses represented the “proper” proportion of white males since there are various cultural reasons why any attempt to do so would result in the exclusion of better qualified women.

It would be self evidently absurd if we chose our competitive sports teams by ensuring that they accurately represented the ethnic and sexual make up of the nation rather than simply selecting the best team players irrespective of whether they reflected the nation. Why should it be any different in other areas of competitive endeavour? All ethnicities and sexes do not have equal cultural or other aptitudes in every area.

This is not to endorse the idea that stereotypes should reign regarding who might be best. Assess the individual without preconceptions or ethnic or other quotas in mind.

Needless to say the poll quoted is useless except to demonstrate that a suitably crafted question can elicit a snap and superficial agreement from a wide range of people.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

DEI is the third iteration of identity-based hiring pushed by Democrats but the first to be exported. The first instance was Jim Crow, established to enforce racial segregation and give precedence to whites. Then came affirmative action, which worked in reserve. The new branding is DEI. The methodology remains unchanged yet a lot of people have convinced themselves that discrimination is okay if you give it an acceptable enough name. The reality is that it represents dehumanization at its worst, effectively turning people into mascots, usually so affluent white progs can feel better about themselves.

Emre S
Emre S
1 month ago

I see three distinct things here.
Firstly, these people such as those who are leading WP or CNN seem to subscribe to some kind of postmodernist fundamentalism which makes them genuinely believe truth doesn’t exist and as long as one can bend the narrative, the underlying truth also can be changed. What instead happens is, being unable to see and acknowledge what’s plainly true or untrue starts a process of decay and eventual self-destruction a.k.a “go woke, get broke”.
Secondly, there’s a continuous bait-and-switch going on. Where the headline is “all they want is to fit in” quickly becomes “if you object to children attending drag shows, you’re far-Right”. This seems to be so common that makes me think that this is a systemic part of what’s happening, so a lot of these opinion makers must be mentally unstable at best, or psychopaths at worst.
Finally, most of these movements which may have got deranged by this point, originate in some form of genuine and unaddressed grievance. This is where a second bait-and-switch situation happens. Yes #metoo has been taken too far to the point of breaking society, but it did uncover a widespread abuse of women by men in positions of power. Yes, BLM was abused being made part of a deranged and harmful defund the police movement, but it does come from genuine grievances of the black population. Listening to some Americans, you would think any discrimination ended centuries ago – yet it’s only since 60 years it became illegal. Someone who grew up in a fully and legally segregated society in US would be enjoying their retirement today.
All in all, this feels like a battle between two groups of bad-faith actors with a squeezed middle keeping their heads down hoping for the storm to subside.

andy young
andy young
1 month ago

” When did you stop beating your wife?” springs to mind.

Thomas Wagner
Thomas Wagner
1 month ago

One wonders where Ipsos asked the questions. The results are believable only if the survey sample is entirely WaPo subscribers.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
1 month ago

Always the way: The media makes some absurd but abbreviated claim pushing the Progressive agenda; opposition arises offering details and demonstrating how wrong-headed the claim is – that few actually read; the media moves on to the next ridiculous assertion while the previous lie fades into the background for most people as a vague impression moving the goalpost just a bit further Left. Every. Single. Day.

Mark epperson
Mark epperson
1 month ago

What else is new with the Post? As a former 43 year subscriber, I almost weep at what happened, in my opinion, to the best newspaper in the U.S, and possibly, the world. This belongs to Bezos, as he purchased the WP to advance his business and political interests, real journalism had nothing to do with it. It is now populated by incompetent graduates of elite schools who know nothing of the real world and even less about integrity, ethics, and common sense. They are nothing but arrogant hacks who have turned the Post into a piece of shit. Sad and tragic.

S 0
S 0
1 month ago

I am reminded of the words of the venerable CatBert, Evil HR Director from the Dilbert comic: de longer you verk here, di verse it gets…

R S Foster
R S Foster
1 month ago

The Anglophone world is full of poorly educated and rather stupid “social” science “graduates” who think they should be PM…but don’t actually join a political party because losing the election to become Class Rep at age nine to a popular child who was good at football and whose mum brought nice cake in on their birthday caused a meltdown, a year off school and expensive therapy…

…so they have found an alternative route to bossing much better, nicer and more complete people about. This nonsensical bilge..!