Pollsters Examine Race Relations in the Nation

In a February CBS News poll, 64 percent of blacks compared to 29 percent of whites said that "improving race relations" is one of the most important things the nation needs to do for the future. Thirty percent of blacks (65 percent of whites) said it is important, but so are other issues. Hardly anyone said this isn’t important.

Forty-nine percent of blacks said race relations are something the government in Washington could do something about, but 45 percent disagreed. Among whites, the responses were 38 and 58 percent, respectively. Still, 75 percent of blacks (54 percent of whites) said race relations are something in which Washington should get involved.

Fifty-five percent of blacks and 74 percent of whites agreed that "There’s been a lot of progress in getting rid of racial discrimination." But 43 percent of blacks and 23 percent of whites said there hasn’t been much real progress.

In a March NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 63 percent of blacks said blacks face discrimination, 29 percent said they receive fair treatment and 1 percent that they receive too many special advantages. Fifty-two percent of blacks said Hispanics face discrimination, and 28 percent said they are treated fairly. Fifty-eight percent of Hispanics, however, thought Hispanics are treated fairly, and 32 percent said they face discrimination.

In a late January-early February ABC News poll, 31 percent of blacks and 47 percent of whites agreed that blacks "tend to exaggerate the amount of discrimination they experience." Fifty-eight percent of blacks and 32 percent of whites disagreed.

. . . And in Your Community

In a September-November 1999 Gallup poll, nearly three-quarters of whites said whites and blacks are treated the same in their own communities; 36 percent of blacks feel this is the case.

Seventy-nine percent of whites compared to 40 percent of blacks say blacks have as good a chance as whites to get a job for which they are qualified in their communities. Eighty-three percent of whites say blacks have as good a chance as whites to get any housing they can afford; 53 percent of blacks feel that way.

Eighty-six percent of whites compared to 56 percent of blacks say blacks have as good a chance as whites to have their children get a good education.

Actual and Perceived Discrimination

Forty-two percent of blacks in the ABC News poll said many taxi drivers in big cities avoid picking up blacks, but just 18 percent of blacks (and 8 percent of whites) said a cab driver had refused to pick them up.

Two-thirds of blacks say shopkeepers in expensive stores make blacks feel unwelcome. Forty-seven percent of blacks (and 34 percent of whites) said shopkeepers had ever made them feel unwelcome.

Almost identical proportions of blacks and whites (53 and 55 percent, respectively) say they have been pulled over by the police for minor traffic infractions. In the Gallup poll, 42 percent of blacks and 6 percent of whites said they felt they were stopped by police "just because of your race or ethnic background." Twenty percent of blacks said they had been treated unfairly in dealings with police in the past 30 days.

Sixty-six percent of blacks said they were treated fairly by local police, compared to 91 percent of whites. Sixty-nine percent of blacks compared to 89 percent of whites said they were treated fairly by state police in their states.

Interracial Dating

In January 1997, 70 percent of white teens, 86 percent of black teens and 83 percent of Hispanic teens told CBS News pollsters that they would date people of a different race. Two-thirds said their parents wouldn’t be bothered by it.

In a 1997 Gallup poll, three quarters of white teens, 69 percent of black teens and 74 percent of Hispanic teens said interracial dating would be "no big deal." Blacks were slightly more likely than whites and Hispanics to say it "sometimes causes problems." Of those who had dated someone of another race, white students were more likely than black and Hispanic students to say their parents minded. Only small proportions said their friends minded.

Interracial Marriage

In 1963, 59 percent of whites told interviewers from the Survey Research Service of the National Opinion Research Center that there should be "laws against marriages between Negroes and whites." By 1970, whites were split 48 to 48 percent. Since 1972, opposition to such laws among whites has outweighed support for them.

Karlyn H. Bowman is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

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About the Author


  • Karlyn Bowman compiles and analyzes American public opinion using available polling data on a variety of subjects, including the economy, taxes, the state of workers in America, environment and global warming, attitudes about homosexuality and gay marriage, NAFTA and free trade, the war in Iraq, and women's attitudes. In addition, Ms. Bowman has studied and spoken about the evolution of American politics because of key demographic and geographic changes. She has often lectured on the role of think tanks in the United States and writes a weekly column for Forbes.com.
  • Phone: 2028625910
    Email: kbowman@aei.org
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    Name: Andrew Rugg
    Phone: 2028625917
    Email: andrew.rugg@aei.org

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