Two-thirds say Obama tried to improve race relations
Washington — Almost eight years after electing a black president, vast majorities of blacks and Hispanics think President Barack Obama at least tried to make race relations in the United States better, according to a poll released Monday.
But only about half of whites think Obama made race relations better or at least tried to make race relations better but failed. Almost a third of whites said the president “made race relations worse.”
The Pew Research Center report also suggested there is still a stark difference in attitudes about race relations among racial and ethnic groups.
For example, whites were split on the status of race relations, with 46 percent saying they are generally good overall and 45 percent saying they are generally bad. But blacks were less optimistic, with 61 percent saying that race relations are bad and 34 percent saying that they are good.
Many people had hope that Obama’s historic election would bring about better race relations, said Juliana Horowitz, a Pew associate director who helped craft the poll.
Sixty-two percent of Americans said the president himself made race relations better or at least tried to make race relations better, but a full 25 percent said he made things worse. The poll did not ask for specifics in how Obama made race relations better or worse.
Racial divisions can be clearly seen in the responses. Vast majorities of blacks and Hispanics — 85 percent for blacks and 74 percent for Republicans — said Obama had made race relations better or tried to make race relations better.
Only about half of whites — 52 percent — said he made things better or tried to make things better but failed. But a full third, or 32 percent, said the president has made things worse.
Other findings in the survey:
— A majority of blacks — 65 percent — expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement, with 41 percent saying they strongly support it and 24 percent saying they support it somewhat. About 1 in 10 blacks — 12 percent — say they oppose the Black Lives Matter movement.
Among whites, 4 in 10 say they strongly or somewhat support the Black Lives Matter movement, with 14 percent saying they strongly support it.
— A majority of African-Americans — 71 percent — said they had personally experienced discrimination or been treated unfairly because of their race or ethnicity, with fewer than 1 in 10 saying it happens to them on a regular basis. Almost a third of white adults — 30 percent — said they had been discriminated against because of their skin color or ethnicity but only 2 percent said it happens to them on a regular basis.
— Just under a third of whites — 30 percent — say their race or ethnicity made it easier for them in life, while a majority said it didn’t make a difference. Only 8 percent of blacks said being black made things easier, with 40 percent saying being African-American has make it harder for them to succeed at life. Almost half of blacks questioned said that being black made no difference in their overall success.
“Blacks and whites are deeply divided in their views of race relations, racial inequality and their perception of what life is like for black people in the U.S.,” Horowitz said.
The findings are based on a national survey by the Pew Research Center conducted Feb. 29-May 8, by telephone among 3,769 adults (including 1,799 whites, 1,004 blacks and 654 Hispanics). Results for the survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.