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60% Say Race Relations Have Gotten Worse Since Obama’s Election

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

As the nation reels from angry protests and deadly violence against police officers, voters are more pessimistic than ever about the state of race relations in this country since the election of its first black president.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 60% of Likely U.S. Voters think race relations are worse since President Obama’s election nearly eight years ago. That’s an 18-point jump from 42% in late 2014 and up from 43% when we first asked the question in August 2013. Just nine percent (9%) believe race relations are better now, little changed from the previous survey, while 28% say they have stayed about the same. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Only 13% think life for young black Americans has gotten better since Obama’s election in November 2008, while 41% believe it’s gotten worse. That compares to 16% and 22% in March 2014. Thirty-nine percent (39%) believe life for young blacks is about the same, down 10 points from the previous survey.

Sixty-six percent (66%) of whites and 51% of other minority voters believe that race relations in this country have gotten worse since Obama’s election, but just 38% of blacks agree. Half (49%) of black voters and 32% of other minorities think race relations are about the same. Blacks are also less likely than the others to feel life for young black Americans has gotten worse.

Separate surveying, however, finds that blacks are much more likely to believe the economy and the U.S. justice system is unfair to them. Blacks strongly believe they are treated unfairly by the police, but most voters in general think crime in inner cities is a bigger problem than police discrimination against minorities.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on July 12-13, 2016 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Just 21% of voters now believe the country is headed in the right direction, the lowest finding in nearly three years. Last September, only 20% said Obama has brought Americans of different races closer together, while 47% said he has driven those of different races further apart.

Twenty percent (20%) of voters believe government has tried to do too much to improve the lives of young black Americans, but 43% say it has done too little. Twenty-two percent (22%) feel the level of government action has been about right. Fifteen percent (15%) are undecided.

Only 12% believe the government is most responsible for improving conditions for young black Americans. Thirty-seven percent (37%) think their parents are most responsible, but nearly as many (35%) say it’s mostly up to the young people themselves, up from 29% in 2014. Two percent (2%) feel private business has the most responsibility, while two percent (2%) think it’s mainly up to school authorities. Twelve percent (12%) see that responsibility somewhere else or are not sure.

Seventy-one percent (71%) of black voters say the government has not done enough to improve the lives of young black people, a view shared by 39% of whites and 43% of other minority voters. But just 15% of blacks agree the government should be primarily responsible for improving those conditions. Black voters believe even more strongly than the others that parents hold that responsibility, while whites and other minorities tend to be more divided between parents and the young people themselves.

Eighty-four percent (84%) of Republicans and 67% of voters not affiliated with either party believe race relations have worsened since Obama’s election, a view shared by just 32% of voters in the president’s party. Seventeen percent (17%) of Democrats say those relations have gotten better, but a plurality (47%) thinks they are about the same.

While Democrats are far less likely than the others to think life for young black Americans has gotten worse since the president’s election, they are more critical of government efforts to improve those conditions. Republicans and unaffiliated voters put more emphasis on parental and personal responsibility than Democrats do.

The older the voter, the more likely he or she is to believe parents should be primarily responsible for improving conditions for young black people. Younger voters tend to put more emphasis on government efforts compared to their elders.

As America honored the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. this January, confidence that race relations were getting better overall sunk to its lowest level yet.

Americans strongly believe the media is emphasizing shootings by police officers involving black suspects over ones in which whites are shot and that that media coverage is prompting attacks on police. While voters are less convinced that there is an actual war on police, most still blame politicians who are critical of the police for making their jobs more dangerous. Both these surveys were taken after the murder of five Dallas police officers but before the killing of three policemen this past weekend in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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