A survey says white residents are the group in Evanston who most favor the city’s reparations program.

The survey was conducted for the city by the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy at Northwestern University and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

Alvin Tillery, director of the center at Northwestern, said nationwide surveys have never recorded more than 20% support among white Americans for reparations.

Of course, given that 91% of Evanstonians voted for the Democrat in the 2020 presidential election, compared to 51% of Americans nationwide, higher support for reparations here may not be all that surprising.

A Pew Research Center study last year showed only 30% of all U.S. adults support reparations. And a University of California, Berkeley poll this year indicated only 23% of that state’s registered voters support cash reparations.

Tillery, in a phone interview with Evanston Now, said the study here also showed that adoption of the reparation program led to a net increase in the level of residents’ trust in local government.

The Evanston survey initially sought online responses promoted with an email message to residents from Mayor Daniel Biss inviting participation. That campaign drew a response from about 3.6% of Evanston residents.

But it showed a relatively low response rate by minorities. So it was followed up with a postcard campaign that over-sampled wards with a large minority population and with in-person outreach.

Those efforts brought the overall response rate to 4.3% of the city’s population.

Tillery said the survey is just the first phase of research he plans to conduct on the reparations program.

“We hope to go back and do focus groups,” Tillery said, adding that he hopes to include “some who disagree with the program and will come in and yell about it so we can get good data.”

Asked about the lower support rate for the program among Black residents — who would include program beneficiaries — Tillery said his thoughts are only speculative at this point.

But he suggested three possible reasons — including organized campaigns against reparations in some segments of the Black community, concerns about whether the promised benefits will ever be disbursed and concerns about who benefits, given how the program is structured.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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