On Views of Race and Inequality, Blacks and Whites Are Worlds Apart

Jun 27, 2016

Almost eight years after Barack Obama's election as the nation's first black president –an event that engendered a sense of optimism among many Americans about the future of race relations – a series of flashpoints around the U.S. has exposed deep racial divides and reignited a national conversation about race. A new Pew Research Center survey finds profound differences between black and white adults in their views on racial discrimination, barriers to black progress and the prospects for change. Blacks, far more than whites, say black people are treated unfairly across different realms of life, from dealing with the police to applying for a loan or mortgage. And, for many blacks, racial equality remains an elusive goal.

  • An overwhelming majority of blacks (88%) say the country needs to continue making changes for blacks to have equal rights with whites, but 43% are skeptical that such changes will ever occur.
  • Blacks are also about twice as likely as whites to say too little attention is paid to race and racial issues in the U.S. these days (58% vs. 27%). About four-in-ten whites (41%) – compared with 22% of blacks – say there is too much focus on race and racial issues.
  • Some 51% of blacks say Obama has made progress toward improving race relations, and an additional 34% say he has tried but failed to make progress. Relatively few blacks (5%) say Obama has made race relations worse, while 9% say he hasn’t addressed the issue at all.
  • Among whites, 28% say Obama has made progress toward improving race relations and 24% say he has tried but failed to make progress. But a substantial share of whites (32%) say Obama has made race relations worse.
  • 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).
  • Sixty-five 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.