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Poll: Most Believe Race Relations Have Not Improved Under Obama

Image: Poll: Most Believe Race Relations Have Not Improved Under Obama (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

By Jennifer G. Hickey   |   Monday, 25 Aug 2014 01:05 PM

It was thought at the time of Barack Obama's election that the nation would experience an improvement in race relations, but a new poll finds that for a majority of Americans, that hope has not produced change.

Asked whether race relations had improved, worsened, or stayed the same, 52 percent said they had not changed, while another 35 percent said race relations had gotten worse, The New York Times reported.

"Things got somewhat better because the country felt proud of itself for electing him. But I certainly think they're worse than they were on Jan. 20, 2009," National Urban League President Marc Morial told Politico. "There was a sense that the country had turned the corner. I think today there may be a sense that that progress has been a proverbial step forward and two steps back."

The New York Times/CBS News poll found that 40 percent of white respondents believe race relations have worsened since Obama's election, twice the percentage of black people.
Fifty-nine percent of black people and 50 percent of white people say race relations have stayed the same under Obama. The nationwide telephone poll of 1,025 adults was conducted on Aug. 19-20.

The divide is similar when results are examined along ideological lines. While 47 percent of conservatives see a decline in race relations, just 22 percent of liberals shared that view.
Just over three-quarters (78 percent) of Americans felt positively about race relations in their own communities, but when asked about the nation as a whole, only 47 percent said the same.

The sentiments in the August poll are similar to those found in an April New York Times/CBS News poll. In that poll, 60 percent of whites and 55 percent of blacks said relations were "generally good," reports CBS News.

According to the television network, positive views of race relations peaked in April 2009 when 66 percent said race relations were good.

A year after Obama's election, most blacks felt confident in the prospect for progress. A Pew Research Center poll taken in 2010 found 39 percent said the "situation of black people in this country" was better, compared with just 20 percent who said the same in their 2007 survey.

Additionally, more than half of blacks polled (53 percent) said they felt their lives would improve in the future.

The divide between the races, however, is biggest when it comes to the criminal justice system, particularly when individuals are asked their views on specific cases.

More blacks than whites, however, say the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a member of the Ferguson, Missouri, police force raises important issues about race that should be discussed.

A Pew Research Center poll found 80 percent of blacks say the shooting raises serious issues, but 47 percent of whites say the issue of race is getting more attention than is merited.

The divide extends to how the races view the use of force. Among blacks, 65 percent argue the police response to protests has been too extreme, while 33 percent of whites said the response went too far. A similar percentage (32 percent) responded that the police reacted in a manner that was about right.

The divide between the races also emerged in surveys taken shortly after George Zimmerman was acquitted in 2013 by a Florida jury of charges that he intentionally killed Trayvon Martin, a black unarmed teenager.

Asked specifically about the verdict, 71 percent of blacks and 48 percent of Democrats said the result decreased their confidence in the legal system, while only 24 percent of whites and just 13 percent of Republicans responded similarly.

"This is about as polarizing as it gets," Democratic pollster Jay Campbell told NBC News.

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