Around 25% of sample in LAPOP survey identified themselves as of ‘mixed’ race

The proportion of Guyanese in a representative sample who identified themselves as being Indo-Guyanese was 39.5%, Afro-Guyanese 27.2% and of ‘mixed’ race 24.5%, according to a survey done last year for the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP).

The figure should be a “fairly accurate representation of the country in terms of self-identification,” Director of LAPOP Dr. Elizabeth Zechmeister told Stabroek News in an exclusive interview yesterday. She noted that the distribution was obtained from the survey itself and they did not have access to that dataset from the 2012 census from the authorities here. The survey was conducted by US University Vanderbilt for LAPOP. The changing demographics of Guyana and the possible attendant political consequences are of keen interest given the historical voting patterns here.

However, the authorities here are yet to release data from the 2012 census showing the breakdown of Guyana’s population based onethnicity. Population figures from the 2002 census showed Indo-Guyanese at 43.4%; Afro-Guyanese at 30.2%; Amerindians at 9.1% and those of mixed race at 16.7%.

According to the LAPOP survey, which was done last year and sampled 1558 individuals from across the nation to give a representative sample of the country, the distribution by ethnicity was Indo-Guyanese – 39.5%; Afro-Guyanese – 27.2%; Amerindian – 8.2%; Portuguese -0.4%; and Mixed – 24.5%.

Dr Zechmeister noted that the results are fairly similar to the 2002 census distribution and said that it should be a fairly accurate representation of the country in terms of self-identification.

She acknowledged that in the 2002 census, the proportion of persons identifying themselves as being of ‘mixed’ race was lower.

“That could be a political thing, I don’t know, it may be that when responding to a census people are more likely to select one versus the other and not declare themselves as mixed and in a survey maybe they are more likely to declare themselves mixed or in the past…it’s been some time here, 12 years, things have shifted a bit,” she said.

Dr. Mitchell Seligson, the founder and senior adviser to LAPOP noted that ethnicity is not something that is stamped on a person and it can depend on the context in which the persons are interviewed. “I suspect Guyana is a case where there is a more rigidly fixed set of identities because of the nature of the historical migration patterns in here,” he added.

He said that if the data from the 2012 census were to finally be published, they can then see how the sample varies. He noted that the 2012 census was done based upon census maps that were done earlier. “They interviewed everybody…and if they did it right and things haven’t changed since then, then we are off but we don’t know that…” he said.

Dr Zechmeister added that they would have asked the question in a slightly different way and in a slightly different context and noted that identities are fluid. She said that they are confident that the results gives an accurate picture of “self-identification in the context of our survey.”

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