A demonstrator yells during a rally outside the location where Richard Spencer, an avowed white nationalist and spokesperson for the so-called alt-right movement, is delivering a speech on the campus of the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, U.S., October 19, 2017. Credit: SHANNON STAPLETON | REUTERS

A majority of white Americans feel anti-white discrimination exists in the country today, although very few of them could point to examples from their own lives as evidence of it, a recent poll found.

Poll results released this week by National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that 55 percent of white respondents believe there’s discrimination against white people in the country.

But when asked for instances in which they’ve personally experienced discrimination, white respondents struggled to come up with them. Less than 20 percent said they felt discriminated against because of their race when applying for a job, while 13 percent felt their race worked against them while seeking a promotion and 11 percent said it was a problem when trying to get into college.

University of Akron political scientist David Cohen told NPR feelings of resentment among white, working class voters is having an effect on the political landscape. He said Donald Trump, now president, tapped into the sentiment for his successful 2016 campaign.

“I’m not sure that he necessarily created this angst among white voters,” Cohen told NPR, “but he certainly knew how to take advantage of it.”

While some white respondents told NPR they generally believe members of minority groups are favored when applying for jobs or government assistance, others seemed surprised by the idea that whites might be suffering from discrimination.

“I don’t see how we can be discriminated against when we have all the power,” retired Maryland teacher Betty Holton told NPR. “Look at Congress. Look at the Senate. Look at government on every level. Look at the leadership in corporations. Look. Look anywhere. The notion that whites are discriminated against just seems incredible to me.”

Seventy-eight percent of U.S. representatives are white, while 90 percent of the country’s senators are.

In the same survey, large majorities of the members of different minority groups also felt that discrimination against their own group exists in America, with about 60 percent of African-American respondents pointing to instances in which they felt they were treated differently by police because of their skin color, for instance.

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Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.