As the Obama presidency draws to a close, white and black Americans are deeply divided on views of race relations in the United States, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.
The report, titled On Views of Race and Inequality, Blacks and Whites are Worlds Apart, found that just 8 percent of black Americans say the changes needed to achieve racial equality for blacks in the U.S. have already been made, while nearly 40 percent of white Americans say the same thing.
As to whether the country will ever achieve racial equality — defined in the survey as an environment in which blacks and whites are treated with equal fairness — blacks are far less optimistic than whites. Just 42 percent of blacks believe the country will eventually make the changes to get there, compared with 75 percent of whites.
Juliana Horowitz, associate director of research for Pew, notes that there are views that black and white survey respondents held in equal measure. For instance, when asked to identify effective means of achieving racial equality, 34 percent of whites and 41 percent of blacks said bringing people of different racial backgrounds together to talk about race would be a very effective tactic for helping blacks achieve equality.
But Horowitz says the survey suggests how difficult such conversations are likely to be. There are “fundamental differences” in how white and black Americans think about race, she says. “The starting point is so different.”
Pew has surveyed attitudes on race many times over the years. Horowitz says the motivation behind this most recent survey was recent high profile race-related events, such as the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, and the coming end of the nation’s first black presidency.
Here are some more highlights.
Whites say too much attention is paid to race
58 percent of blacks say too little attention is paid to race and racial issues in the U.S. today, while only 27 percent of whites say the same thing.
Among white Republicans, 59 percent say too much attention is paid to race and race relations in the U.S.
Blacks are twice as likely as whites to point to racial discrimination as a major reason why some blacks have a harder time getting ahead (70 percent and 36 percent respectively).
Most blacks support Black Lives Matter
65 percent of blacks support the Black Lives Matter movement, with 41 percent saying they strongly support it. 40 percent of whites support the movement, while only 14 percent say they strongly support it.
Notably, only 12 percent of whites say they understand the goals of the movement very well, while 33 percent of blacks say the same thing.
As for views on whether that Black Lives Matter movement will be effective in helping blacks achieve equality, 6 percent of whites and 20 percent of blacks say they think it will.
Views on whether race determines fair treatment
Eight in 10 blacks say black people are treated less fairly than whites in dealing with police. And the majority of blacks feel they are treated less fairly in the courts, when applying for loans, in the workplace, and in stores or restaurants. About one-third of whites agreed.
Pew asked similar questions about racial discrimination in 2008, and the findings were remarkably similar: 8 in 10 blacks said black Americans face discrimination in activities from shopping or eating out to applying to college or buying a house, compared to about 1 in 3 whites.
Views on President Obama’s legacy
Only 5 percent of blacks say they think Obama made race relations worse in the U.S., compared to 32 percent of whites.
Half of the black survey takers say they think the president made progress toward improving race relations, while one-third of whites feel the same way.
In 2009, Pew conducted a survey on whether people thought race relations would improve under the Obama administration. “Overall, the finding was that Americans — both black and white — thought relations would improve with Obama in office,” says Horowitz.
But this new survey shows that as the Obama presidency draws to a close, many black and white Americans see the country — and their place in it — very, very differently.