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50 years after Civil Rights Act, Americans see progress on race

By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto and Fred Backus

Fifty years after the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, majorities of blacks and whites think real progress has been made in getting rid of racial discrimination, but most say at least some discrimination still exists today. African-Americans are more likely than whites to see discrimination as widespread.

More than three in four Americans, including most whites and blacks, think the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was a very important event in U.S. history; another 19 percent call it somewhat important. Just 5 percent do not consider it an important event.

Nearly eight in 10 Americans think there's been real progress since the 1960s in getting rid of racial discrimination; just 19 percent say there hasn't been much progress. The percentage that says progress has been made has remained fairly consistent in recent years, but it has increased nearly 30 points since 1992.


Views on progress differ by race, however. Whites (82 percent) are more likely than African-Americans (59 percent) to think real progress has been made. More than a third of African-Americans say there hasn't been real progress.


But few - just 5 percent - think all of the goals of Martin Luther King and the 1960s civil rights movement have been achieved. Thirty-eight percent think most of these goals have been met, but 52 percent (including 63 percent of blacks) think only some of the goals of the civil rights movement have been achieved.

Moreover, most Americans say discrimination against blacks exists today, and blacks are far more likely than whites to think it is pervasive. Forty-one percent of blacks say there is a lot of discrimination against African-Americans today, compared to just 14 percent of whites who say that.


Fifty years after the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, most whites (63 percent) think both blacks and whites have an equal chance to get ahead in today's society, but fewer African-Americans - 46 percent - share that view. Blacks are more likely than whites to say white Americans have a better chance to get ahead in today's society than black Americans.



This poll was conducted by telephone June 18-22, 2014 among 1,009 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, Pa. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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