Whites, Minorities Differ in Views of Economic Opportunities in U.S.

by Joseph Carroll

Most see education system as solution to inequality

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup's annual Minority Rights and Relations Poll underscores the different economic realities faced by whites and minorities in the United States. While a majority of non-Hispanic whites think racial minorities and whites have equal job opportunities, the majority of Hispanics and vast majority of blacks disagree. Blacks are much more likely than whites or Hispanics to say unemployment is the most important problem facing the country. Most blacks feel that American society is divided into the "haves" and the "have-nots," and blacks as well as Hispanics are more likely to say they belong to the "have-nots" group. Blacks and Hispanics also express more concern than whites about meeting their family's expenses. The differences are even greater on the subject of jobs.

When asked to describe what could be done to improve conditions for blacks in this country, all three racial and ethnic groups most frequently mention improving the nation's education system. However, substantial numbers of blacks and Hispanics believe blacks need to be provided with more job opportunities.

Job Opportunities

The June 8-25 poll, which includes oversamples of approximately 500 blacks and 500 Hispanics, finds stark differences in whites' and minorities' views of job opportunities in the United States. A majority of whites, 53%, believe that whites and minorities have equal job opportunities, but 34% of Hispanics and just 17% of blacks agree. The vast majority of blacks, 81%, dispute the notion of equal job opportunities. That general pattern is consistent across the six years Gallup has conducted this survey.

Blacks are also more likely than either whites or Hispanics to mention unemployment as the most important problem facing the country. Twelve percent of blacks, compared with 6% of whites and 3% of Hispanics, mention unemployment in response to this open-ended question.

For all three groups, the current situation in Iraq ranks as the most important problem facing the nation right now. But, unemployment ranks second among blacks, while it does not appear among the top five issues listed by either whites or Hispanics. Immigration is a much higher priority for whites and Hispanics than blacks.

Most Important Problem: Top Five Problems by Racial Groups
June 8-25, 2006

Rank

Non-Hispanic Whites

Blacks

Hispanics

1

The war in Iraq (23%)

The war in Iraq (33%)

The war in Iraq (28%)

2

Immigration (19%)

Unemployment (12%)

Immigration (21%)

3

Healthcare (13%)

Government (10%)

Terrorism (9%)

4

Fuel/oil prices (10%)

Economy (9%)

Economy (8%)

5

Economy (8%)

Crime (7%)

Government (6%)

Education (8%)

A Divided Nation

Gallup finds that blacks are much more likely than whites or Hispanics to agree with the notion that society is divided into the "haves" and "have-nots." Roughly two in three blacks (67%) say American society is divided into these two classifications, while only 42% of whites and 31% of Hispanics feel this way. Most whites (57%) and Hispanics (64%) say American society is not divided. Hispanics are the least likely of the three groups to acknowledge such a division.

In fact, the current percentage of blacks holding this view is the highest Gallup has measured in the five times it has asked this question since 1988. Whites have also become more likely to see society as divided over time, though most of the increase occurred between 1988 and 1998. Still, the 42% with this opinion in the current poll is the highest Gallup has measured among whites.

Gallup also asks respondents to say which group they think they belong in. More blacks and Hispanics say they belong in the "have-not" rather than the "have" group -- by a 49% to 41% margin among blacks and by a 45% to 41% margin among Hispanics. More than 6 in 10 whites (62%) say they belong to the "haves," while 32% say the "have-nots."

Blacks and Hispanics may be more likely to think of themselves as "have-nots" because they report a greater amount of worry about meeting their family's expenses and bills than do whites, even though a majority of all three racial groups say they only worry about this some of the time or almost never.

Roughly 4 in 10 blacks (42%) and Hispanics (38%) say they worry about their family's expenses "all" or "most of the time." This compares with just 27% of whites. The results for all three racial groups have been consistent over the past three years.

Improving the Situation for Blacks in the United States

Given higher unemployment rates and lower household incomes for blacks, Gallup asked Americans for their ideas about how to improve the situation for blacks in the United States today.

Gallup asked the question in an open-ended fashion, so respondents could say anything that came to mind. All three racial and ethnic groups see improving the education system as the key to helping blacks.

As you may know, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that, compared with other racial or ethnic groups in the United States, blacks have higher levels of unemployment and lower average household incomes. In your opinion, what do you think is the most important thing that could improve the situation of blacks in the U.S. today?


Non-Hispanic Whites

Blacks

Hispanics

%

%

%

Improved education system

54

41

35

More personal responsibility/self motivation/better attitudes

14

6

7

Improved family structure

9

5

3

More employment/job opportunities

7

24

21

Less handouts/improve the welfare system

6

1

3

Less discrimination/equal opportunities

4

17

9

Better job training

2

2

1

Affirmative action

2

2

1

Higher income/wages

1

7

2

Government needs to provide more public/social assistance

1

*

*

Need better/more black role models/leaders

1

*

*

Stop the drugs/gangs/violence

*

1

2

Need improved economics/housing

*

1

2

Provide more healthcare assistance

*

1

1

Other

1

2

1

No opinion

11

7

20

* Less than 0.5%

Percentages add to more than 100% due to multiple responses.

Overall, 41% of blacks say the most important thing to improve the situation for blacks in this country is an improved education system. Not surprisingly, about the same percentage of blacks say that job opportunities need to be improved, either by providing more jobs or employment or reducing discrimination to allow for equal opportunities in the work place. At least 5% of blacks also mentioned providing higher income and wages, taking more personal responsibility, and improving the family structure.

A majority of whites, 54%, say improving education would be the most important thing to improve the situation for blacks in the country today, easily the dominant response among the group. Fourteen percent believe solutions lie in blacks taking more personal responsibility, while whites also say improving the family structure (9%), offering more employment or job opportunities (7%), and giving fewer "handouts" and improving the welfare system (6%) are possible solutions.

Thirty-five percent of Hispanics say the most important step to improve the situation for blacks would be a better education system. But as is the case among blacks, an almost equal number of Hispanics believe that more employment or job opportunities (21%) and less discrimination and more equality (9%) are needed. Seven percent of Hispanics also believe that blacks should take more personal responsibility.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 2,032 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted June 8-25, 2006, including oversamples of blacks and Hispanics that are weighted to reflect their proportions in the general population. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points.

Results for the sample of 872 non-Hispanic whites, aged 18 and older, are based on telephone interviews conducted June 8-25, 2006. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±7 percentage points.

Results for the sample of 500 blacks, aged 18 and older, are based on telephone interviews conducted June 8-25, 2006. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±7 percentage points.

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