As Blacks Mark History, Satisfaction Gap Persists

by Darren K. Carlson, Government and Politics Editor

February is filled with historical moments for black Americans, from the ratification of the 15th Amendment that granted blacks the right to vote in February 1870, to the founding of the NAACP in February 1909, to the first sit-in of the civil rights movement in February 1960. Those milestones and many more are among those being remembered this month -- which is also Black History Month. But while few would deny there’s much progress in race relations to celebrate, recent Gallup polling on fair and equal treatment of minorities in society reveals a gulf between whites’ and nonwhites’ estimations of just how far we’ve come.

Gallup’s January 2004 Mood of the Nation poll* asked Americans how satisfied they are with the state of race relations and the position of blacks and other racial minorities in the United States. Overall, public satisfaction with "the position of blacks and other minorities in the nation" and "the state of race relations" appears moderately positive. More than half of Americans say they are "very satisfied" (12%) or "somewhat satisfied" (45%) with the position of blacks and other racial minorities in this country, while slightly more than a third are either "very dissatisfied" or "somewhat dissatisfied." The trend on this question among the general public has been static over the last three years.

Similarly, just over half of Americans report being very or somewhat satisfied with the state of race relations in the country, while 40% are either very or somewhat dissatisfied. The percentage of Americans saying they are satisfied with the state of race relations is 10 points higher now than it was in January 2001.

The Racial Divide

However, the responses to both questions vary significantly by race. Six in 10 white Americans (61%) are satisfied with the position of blacks and other racial minorities in this country, and 32% are dissatisfied. Among nonwhites, just 44% are satisfied, and half (50%) are dissatisfied.

A similar discrepancy exists when it comes to satisfaction with the state of race relations across racial and ethnic groups. Among white Americans, 56% are satisfied with the state of race relations, and 38% are dissatisfied. The satisfaction level drops to 44% among nonwhite Americans. Roughly half (49%) of nonwhites are dissatisfied with the state of race relations.

The results of this poll are similar to what Gallup finds when it asks about race in the United States. Gallup’s annual Minority Relations poll -- conducted each June -- shows that satisfaction with racial issues is typically highest among whites, Hispanics are somewhat less satisfied, and blacks are the least satisfied.

*Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,004 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 12-15, 2004. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

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