In light of the rise in hate crimes in America in recent years, and the rise of President Donald Trump through the exploitation of racial divisions and raw appeals to white supremacy, racism is on the minds of many. A new survey from Pew Research Center shines a light on what Americans across the racial spectrum are thinking about the state of racial progress, and the findings are not encouraging. Moreover, most people identify Trump as a part of the problem in an era of worsening race relations.
The report, called “Race in America 2019” (pdf), is a survey of 6,600 people, including 3,000 white respondents, 1,500 Black and Latino participants, and 355 Asians, according to Pew. While Black, Latino and Asian people were overrepresented in the study, their responses were weighed in proportion to their representation in the U.S. population. The extensive study presents some sobering and eye-opening results on racial opinions based on race, age, education and political affiliation.
“One of our overall takeaways is that Americans are quite negative about the state of relations and equality,” Anna Brown, a research analyst with Pew Research Center told Atlanta Black Star.
One poignant example of this reality is that half of Black people surveyed said they would not likely have equal rights with whites, as opposed to only 7 percent of whites who agreed Blacks never would attain the level of rights whites enjoy.
Those surveyed believe that Americans are more emboldened and comfortable with expressing racist sentiments in public, and President Trump is the reason. Trump — who has called African, Caribbean and Latin American nations “shithole countries” and referred to violent white supremacist and neo-Nazi protesters at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, as “very fine people” — has been cited for enabling white nationalists and a climate of intolerance. Some 56 percent of Americans believe Trump is responsible for deteriorating race relations, with 15 percent saying he has improved relations, and 13 percent believing he attempted but did not succeed. “A majority of Americans have said Trump has made race relations worse and whether expressing racially insensitive views have become more common. About 65 percent say it has become more common to express racially insensitive views, and 45 percent say it has become more acceptable,” Brown said.
The findings of the Pew study come down along lines of political partisanship. For example, white Democrats were more likely than white Republicans to believe the country’s legacy of slavery has had an impact on the current state of African Americans. “We found that partisanship is strongly associated with racial attitudes,” Brown noted, adding that “partisanship had a closer association than demographic factors. We weren’t able to look at Black Republicans because they are a relatively small share, so we were mostly looking at white and Black Democrats.”
The education level of the people surveyed influenced their views on race and how woke they are on racial justice issues. “We’ve consistently found … among Blacks, those with at least some college say being Black hurt their ability to get ahead,” Brown said. “Among Blacks and Hispanics those with some college experience are more likely to say they have ever experienced discrimination or unfair treatment,” she added, noting that whereas among white folks, college-educated whites said they benefited because of their race.
Further, age played a role in opinions on the national racial climate. “One interesting thing with Blacks is that older Blacks have positive views about Black-white relations, and younger whites and Blacks were less likely than older [people] to say their race is more important to their overall identity,” Brown said. Among Black millennials, 64 percent say being Black is at least very important, as opposed to three-quarters of older Black people surveyed. Few whites responded that white identity is central in their lives, and younger white people were most likely to say it is not important. Foreign-born Latinos were more likely (65 percent) than U.S.-born Latinos (52 percent) to conclude that being Hispanic is very important in their perception of themselves. Nevertheless, Black people are far more likely than others to say that race or ethnicity is central to their identity.
Some of the data in the Pew study illuminate the glaring differences in opinion between Black and white America, even when a majority of both groups hold the same stance on issues of racial disparities and injustice. For example, even as most people across race believe Black people are treated worse than their white counterparts in the criminal justice system, 87 percent of Blacks agree but only 61 percent of whites agree. Similarly, 84 percent of Blacks and 63 percent of whites believe Black people receive unequal treatment at the hands of law enforcement, and large Black majorities but fewer than half of whites think Black people endure unfair treatment in employment, voting, health care and other aspects of daily life.
By contrast, most Americans, including comparable numbers of Blacks and whites, believe that white people should not use the N-word under any circumstances.
Respondents across the spectrum of people of color reported experiencing discrimination. For example, 76 percent of Blacks, 75 percent of Asians and 58 percent of Latinos said they have experienced racial discrimination, while 67 percent of whites say they have not faced such treatment. Further, Asians were most subjected to slurs, and whites were most often accused of being racist or prejudiced. Among Latinos, darker skin color was associated with discriminatory treatment, while among Blacks, being a highly educated Black man rather than having a darker skin tone correlated more strongly with negative experiences based on race.
As a nonpartisan, non-advocacy organization, Pew does not provide opinions on their studies and does not comment on the policy implications of their findings. However, the results of their most recent report on race in America speak for themselves, and the people surveyed reinforce the notion that America is in a bad way on matters of race. And they believe Trump is only dragging us down further.