Social Issues

Americans' Optimism About Blacks' Opportunities Wanes

Americans' Optimism About Blacks' Opportunities Wanes
by Jeffrey M. Jones

Story Highlights

  • 64% say blacks have same chance as whites to get a job
  • New low of 71% say blacks have same chance to get good education
  • 70% say blacks have same chance to get housing, lowest since '89

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Sixty-four percent of Americans believe blacks have the same chance as whites in their local community to get a job for which they are qualified, but the percentage holding that view has declined in recent years and is the lowest since 1995.

Trend: Americans' Perceptions of Whether Blacks Have as Good a Chance as Whites in Their Community to Get a Job for Which They Are Qualified

The only time Americans were less optimistic about blacks' ability to secure jobs was in the 1960s civil rights era, when roughly four in 10 thought blacks and whites had equal job opportunities.

Americans' beliefs that blacks enjoy equality of opportunity relative to housing and education have also declined. Currently, 70% say blacks have the same chance as whites to get any housing they can afford, the lowest since 1989 and down from a peak of 83% in 1997.

Trend: Americans' Perceptions of Whether Blacks Have as Good a Chance as Whites in Their Community to Get Any Housing They Can Afford

The 71% of Americans who believe black children have the same chance as whites of obtaining a good education is the lowest in Gallup's trend, including in 1962, less than a decade after the Supreme Court ruling desegregating public schools.

Trend: Americans' Perceptions of Whether Black Children Have as Good a Chance as White Children in Their Community to Get a Good Education

The results are based on the June 7-July 1 Gallup Minority Rights and Relations poll, conducted just before recent racial incidents in Minneapolis, Baton Rouge and Dallas.

Most Americans believe blacks have the same opportunities as whites in all three areas of life assessed in the new poll -- jobs, housing and education -- but fewer hold that view than at any point in at least the last two decades. One reason for the declines could be the attention given to racial and economic inequality by the candidates in this year's presidential campaign. Racial incidents involving police in recent years, and the resulting Black Lives Matter movement, could also be a factor, though declines in perceptions of black housing and educational opportunities were mostly evident this year.

Blacks Less Confident Than Whites About Equal Opportunity

Whites and blacks have different perceptions of equality of opportunity for members of racial groups. Whereas roughly seven in 10 whites believe that blacks and whites have the same opportunities to get a job, a good education and any housing they can afford, far fewer blacks agree. Slightly less than half of blacks believe that blacks and whites have the same chance to get a good education (49%) and to get any housing they can afford (46%). Even fewer blacks, 32%, say blacks and whites have equal job opportunities.

Compared with 1999 -- the first year Gallup asked all three questions in a poll with a large oversample of blacks -- both blacks and whites are now less optimistic about black opportunities in all three areas and by similar margins. Thus, while blacks and whites continue to hold widely differing views on black opportunities in the U.S., both groups are less positive than in the past about the situation for blacks.

Perceptions of Black vs. White Opportunities for Jobs, Housing and Education
Figures reflect percentages who believe blacks and whites have the same chance
1999 2016 Change
% % pct. pts.
Jobs
National adults 74 64 -10
Whites 79 69 -10
Blacks 40 32 -8
Housing
National adults 82 71 -11
Whites 86 75 -11
Blacks 56 49 -7
Education
National adults 79 70 -9
Whites 83 74 -9
Blacks 53 46 -7
Gallup

Implications

Americans as a whole largely believe blacks and whites have equal opportunities in the workforce, in school and in finding a home, as opposed to believing blacks are disadvantaged in those areas. But fewer Americans -- including both blacks and whites -- believe equality of opportunity exists in these realms today than have done so in the previous 20 years or more. And more than 50 years after the civil rights movement began, blacks themselves are divided as to whether they have equal opportunities.

Racially charged incidents involving police, the resulting Black Lives Matter movement, and the Flint, Michigan, water crisis have all contributed to a robust national discussion about the challenges blacks face in society. And these concerns are likely magnified in the midst of a presidential campaign as the candidates react to the events and attempt to offer solutions to address the issues they raise. Barack Obama's election as the nation's first black president was a landmark achievement for blacks, but seven years into his presidency, the issues of race remain complex and are beyond what political leadership alone can change.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 7-July 1, 2016, with a sample of 3,270 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, who had previously been interviewed in the Gallup Daily tracking poll and agreed to be re-interviewed for a later study. The sample is weighted to be representative of U.S. adults.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the sample of 1,320 non-Hispanic whites, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the sample of 912 non-Hispanic blacks, the margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the sample of 906 Hispanics, the margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. (271 out of the 906 interviews with Hispanics were conducted in Spanish.)

All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.


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