AMERICAN TEEN-AGERS AND STEREOTYPING
THE NATIONAL ITALIAN AMERICAN FOUNDATION
MARCH 1, 2001
Rebecca Wittman at Zogby International (315) 624-0200
John Marino at The National Italian American Foundation (202)387-0600
In the Summer of 2000, Zogby International interviewed 1,264 teenagers nationwide between the ages of 13 and 18. [Males: 591; Females: 673].
The purpose of the survey was to determine whether or not teen-agers in general and Italian American teen-agers in particular perceive stereotyping on television and in the movies and if they do, how such stereotyping affects them. Teen-agers of different ethnic, religious, and racial backgrounds participated in the survey, including: Northern Europeans (446); Italian Americans (321); Eastern Europeans (56); Central/South Americans (61); African Americans (54); Asians & Pacific Islanders (28); and Middle Easterners (10). The margin of error is +/-3%/
Margins of error are higher in sub-groups. Note: percentages are rounded off.
- When asked to identify the
role a person of a particular ethnic or racial background
would be most likely to play in a movie or on television,
teen agers cited familiar stereotypes:
||Athlete, gang member, police officer
||Terrorist, convenience store clerk
||Physician/lawyer, CEO, factory worker
||Gang member, factory worker
||Crime boss, gang member, restaurant worker
||Physician/lawyer, CEO, teacher
||Drunkard, police officer, factory worker
Movie roles that link Italian Americans with crime (44%) and portray Arab Americans as terrorists (34%) receive the highest percentages of all from the teen-agers surveyed nationally. Among the other findings:
When asked specifically to identify the role a character of Italian background would be most likely to have in a movie or on television, most teen-agers, including Italian Americans, cited crime boss: African American teens (41%); Italian American teens (38%); Northern European teens (32%) and Jewish teens (32%).
- 32% say African
Americans are portrayed as athletes; another 31%
say they are gang members while nearly 11% see African
American characters as police officers.
- 34% of the teens nationwide
say that the media typecast Arab Americans
as terrorists while another 49% see them as vendors or
convenience store clerks.
- Teens expect Asian
Americans to have more varied roles: 19% say they
are physicians or lawyers; 13% say they are likely to be
executives; 12% say factory workers.
- 27% of the teens say they
see Hispanics on TV or in the movies as
gang members and 17% say a Hispanic could be a factory
- Irish Americans
are usually cast as drunkards (26%), police officers (15%)
or factory workers (11%), according to the teens in the
- 44% of teens say that
Italian Americans are most often cast as crime
bosses or gang members; and 34% associate Italian Americans
with restaurant workers.
- 22% of the teens find a
doctor or a lawyer on TV and in the movies is apt to be Jewish
American. 10% see Jewish Americans cast as
- Polish Americans
do not fit any one stereotype, with 15% saying this ethnic
group fits the image of a factory worker, and 31% of teens
saying they are "not sure" what part a Polish
American would play on TV or in the movies.
- When describing roles for
Italian Americans, teens who view no TV are less likely to
say "crime boss": 27% compared to teens who watch
one to two hours a day (34%) and those who watch more than
five hours a day (35%).
- When Italian American teens
were asked if their ethnic heritage was accurately portrayed
on television or in the movies, 46% agreed and nearly 30%
said they were proud of their TV image.
This study reveals that:
- Teens learn the less
admirable aspects of their heritage from entertainment
- Teens' perceptions of other
ethnic, religious, and racial groups are shaped by
entertainment industry stereotypes.