Poll: Majority of voters say race relations are bad, but don’t agree on root causes

U.S. & World

Recent protests improve public opinion of racial justice causes

FILE – In this June 24, 2020, file photo, Antonio Mingo, right, holds his fists in the air as demonstrators protest in front of a police line on a section of 16th Street that’s been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, in Washington. Thousands of Black activists from across the U.S. will hold the 2020 Black National Convention on Aug. 28, 2020, via livestream to produce a new political agenda that builds on the protests that followed George Floyd’s death. Organizers of the gathering shared their plans with The Associated Press on Wednesday, July 1, ahead of an official announcement. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Majorities of Americans across races and political parties have grown pessimistic about race relations in the U.S. amid the country’s recent reckoning on the treatment of Black Americans following nationwide protests over police killings.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Tuesday found 70 percent of Americans say race relations in the United States are either “fairly bad” or “very bad.” That includes 80 percent of Blacks, 76 percent of Hispanics, 69 percent of Whites, 86 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of Republicans.

Only 5 percent of the 900 registered voters surveyed between July 9-12 said race relations are “very good.” Twenty-one percent said relations are “fairly good.” In several surveys during President Barack Obama’s first term, more than seven-in-ten Americans said race relations were good.

Fifty-six percent of those surveyed also said American society is racist, however that is almost unchanged from a July 1988 Associated Press poll in which 55 percent said so.

In just over a decade, the percentage of Americans who believe Black Americans are discriminated against has increased dramatically. Tuesday’s survey found 59 percent believe Blacks face discrimination, up from 28 percent in 2008.

The percentage of voters who say Blacks receive too many special advantages, however, also ticked up from 10 percent in 2008 to 16 percent today.

A majority of voters – 52 percent – also said Hispanics are discriminated against, almost double the 27 percent who said the same in 2008.

The survey also asked about the treatment of White Americans. About three-in-ten voters overall said Whites receive too many special privileges, while 53 percent said Whites are treated fairly and 15 percent said they experience discrimination.

Divided on the causes of racism

Americans remains deeply divided, however, on the root causes of racial discrimination.

Forty-six percent of voters in Tuesday’s poll said racism is built into American society, including into the country’s policies and institutions, while 44 percent said racism is perpetrated only by those who hold racist views.

Those who describe racism as systemic in American society include majorities of Democrats (70 percent) and Blacks (65 percent), while majorities of Republicans (66 percent) and Whites (48 percent) attribute racism solely to individual behavior.

“Where voters in general and Black voters disagree is on the root cause of racism,” said Brenda Lee of Vision Strategy and Insights in a statement. Her firm worked on the survey along with Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research.

“Blacks are more likely to see systemic issues as the root of racism in the U.S., whereas whites see this issue as the result of the behavior of a ‘few bad apples,’” she said. “This framing difference creates a schism in identifying the most appropriate and impactful solutions to address racism.”

Democrats and Republicans are also divided on racial discrimination.

While the share of those who say Black Americans are discriminated against has jumped by nearly 50 points among Democrats and about 13 points among independents since 2000, the share of Republicans saying that Black Americans experience discrimination is virtually unchanged, moving from just 23 percent two decades ago to 26 percent now.

The racial group that Republicans are most likely to believe face discrimination: Whites, at 28 percent.

Fifty percent of voters said President Donald Trump’s election has made it more acceptable for people to express racist or racially insensitive views. Fourteen percent said it has become less acceptable and 33 percent said it has stayed the same.

Other findings

Among the other cultural and political issues that Tuesday’s survey polled voters were on their views of protestors, Black Lives Matter and Confederate statues.

Fifty-seven percent said they support the people who protested in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer in May, while 32 percent said they oppose the protesters.

Forty-nine percent hold positive views of the Black Lives Matter movement, up from 38 percent in 2018. Thirty-three percent of people still view it negatively.

A small majority – 52 percent – also said it is appropriate for athletes to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial inequality, up from 43 percent in 2018. Forty-five percent disagree with the protests.

A much larger shift in public opinion has hit the issue of Confederate monuments. Two years ago, voters supported allowing statues to stay by a 63 percent to 35 percent margin. Now, 51 percent say the statues should be removed, while 47 percent disagree.

The poll’s margin of error was +/- 3.27 percentage points.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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