Recent Polls Show Race Relations Have Gotten Better

(AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)
The arrest of Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. in Cambridge, Mass. has generated a lot of attention in the last week, and even President Obama got into the fray last night, when he said the police "acted stupidly" during his primetime press conference. (Though the White House tried to refine those comments today.)

Since the arrest, Gates has been rallying against racial profiling, and other prominent blacks have joined him as well.

"This arrest is indicative of at best police abuse of power or at worst the highest example of racial profiling I have seen," Reverand Al Sharpton told the Associated Press. "I have heard of driving while black and even shopping while black but now even going to your own home while black is a new low in police community affairs."

With the controversy in mind, we took a look at recently CBS News polls on race and discrimination.

In the summer of 2008, a CBS News/New York Times poll found that many African-Americans felt subjugated to such racial discrimination. Sixty-eight percent of African Americans said they had experienced a specific instant of discrimination whereas only 26 percent of whites said this as well. This reporting rate essentially remained constant from 2000.

HAVE YOU EVER FELT DISCRIMINATION?
(Among African Americans}
July 2008 February 2000
Yes 68% 66%
No 32 33


Additionally, 43 percent of blacks felt they were stopped by police just because of their race. Only 7 percent of whites reported the same feeling.

EVER FELT YOU WERE STOPPED BY POLICY BECAUSE OF YOUR RACE?

July 2008

Total Whites Blacks
Yes 13% 7% 43%
No 86 93 57
DK/NA 1 0 0


However, a CBS News/New York Times poll taken in April of this year found that, for the first time in CBS News Poll history, a majority of African Americans perceived relations between whites and blacks to be good. Fifty-nine percent of blacks said race relations in the U.S. are good, compared with only 29 percent who thought so less than a year ago.

RACE RELATIONS IN THE U.S.

April 2009 July 2008
Whites Blacks Whites Blacks
Good 65% 59% 55% 29%
Bad 21 30 34 59


Some may conclude that the election of President Obama contributed to the change in attitude amongst African Americans. However, the poll conducted in April showed that 65 percent of whites and 59 percent of blacks said that race relations has not directly been effected by Mr. Obama's presidency.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY'S IMPACT ON RACE RELATIONS

April 2009

Whites Blacks
Gotten Better 23% 33%
Gotten Worse 7 5
Stayed Same 65 59


Those who have seen an impact by Mr. Obama's election, the poll reports, were more likely to say that race relations have improved rather than deteriorated.

It is important to note that these positive assessments do not mean that African Americans perceive no discrimination. When asked who has a better chance of getting ahead in today's society, 51 percent said white people do, a response that has reoccurred since CBS News first began asking this question in 1997.

WHO HAS A BETTER CHANCE OF GETTING AHEAD IN U.S.?

April 2009

Whites Blacks
White People 26% 51%
Black People 7 1
Both Equal 62 44


Jennifer De Pinto, manager of election and survey information for CBS News, provided the polling data for this report.
  • CBSNews.com

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