Political Correctness

NPR Poll: Most Americans Hate Political Correctness, At Least If You Don't Define It

Call it the "Baby, It's Cold Outside" backlash.


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A majority of Americans do not want the country to become more politically correct, according to a new poll by NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist.

Some 52 percent of respondents said they were "upset that there are too many things people can't say anymore." Another 36 percent thought heightened sensitivity was a good thing, and the rest were conflicted or unsure. Most Democrats favored political correctness, but both Republicans and independents were against it.

NPR described this finding as a "big warning sign for Democrats," since voters do not share progressive activists' appetite for punishing insufficiently woke expression.

"If the Democratic Party moves in a direction that is more to its base on this issue, it suggests independents are going to be tested to stay with the Democrats electorally," Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, told NPR.

Another recent study found that 80 percent of respondents thought political correctness was a problem. And while critics often mock the idea that PC-run-amok drove voters into the arms of the most anti-PC candidate, Donald Trump, some evidence has emerged to support the proposition.

But here's one issue: The poll didn't rigorously define political correctness, and that could have influenced the result. This of course points to a larger problem—i.e., that "political correctness" is a poorly defined term in general, and may mean vastly different things to different people.

For instance, the political scientist Kevin Collins suggested the wording should have been this: "Do you think that members of racial groups should be called by terms generally preferred by those groups, or should non-members of those groups be free to use any terms they like without social repercussions?" If the question were asked this way, I suspect fewer people would have signaled a discomfort with what Collins has defined as political correctness.

I have tried to define political correctness somewhat differently, as a system of informal social sanction deployed against people for making problematically worded but benign statements due to ignorance rather than malice (like not knowing that it's preferable to say black people or people of color instead of African Americans or blacks).

A great many people, I suspect, would not be able to offer any workable definition of political correctness, but they know it when they see it, and for them, it takes the form of #MeToo feminists trying to get "Baby, It's Cold Outside" yanked from the airwaves. If you really think this kind of political correctness could not possibly backfire on liberals, consider that the 70-year-old song is currently climbing the Billboard charts, and one radio station decided to play it for two hours straight just to really stick it to all those snowflakes.