This morning’s Al Jazeera America/Monmouth University Poll finds that nearly all Americans agree that racial discrimination continues to be a problem for the nation, but they are divided by race on whether greater social integration is an important element in fixing the problem. The national poll – the first conducted by Al Jazeera America, with Monmouth University – also found that Americans, by a nearly 3-to-1 margin, are more likely to say that race relations have worsened rather improved since Barack Obama moved into the White House.
Fully 8-in-10 Americans agree that racial and ethnic discrimination is a problem in the United States, with half (51%) saying it is a big problem, and 30% saying it is a small problem. About 2-in-3 blacks (69%) and Latinos (66%) say discrimination is a big problem, while just under half of whites (45%) feel the same.
As the nation’s first black president starts his seventh year in office, very few (15%) Americans feel that race relations have gotten better since Barack Obama’s became president compared to 4-in-10 (43%) who they have gotten worse. Another 40% say there has been no change in race relations under Obama. Blacks (31%) and Latinos (24%) are slightly more likely than whites (9%) to say race relations have gotten better since Obama, but the difference is not overwhelming. In fact, black Americans are evenly divided – 31% say race relations have gotten better, 31% say they have gotten worse, and 37% say there has been no change during Obama’s tenure.
The public is also divided on the role Pres. Obama has played on race issues. One-quarter (25%) say he has been too outspoken and one-quarter (28%) say he has been too quiet, while 4-in-10 (39%) say he has struck the right tone. Black Americans (68%) are more likely than white (36%) and Latino (32%) Americans to feel that the president has struck the right tone on race relations. Among black Americans only, about half (49%) say it is time for new leadership in the black community while 1-in-3 (35%) say that the civil rights era leaders are still effective spokespersons.
“The black community expresses support for the president, but there is also an undercurrent that race relations have not progressed as far as they had hoped in the past six years,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, which conducted the Al Jazeera America / Monmouth University Poll.
The poll found differences of opinion among the races on what approaches are needed to eliminate racial discrimination. Fifty years after the Selma march led to passage of the Voting Rights Act, nearly all Americans – regardless of race – agree that equality of opportunity is very important, but they are less convinced about the need for greater integration in our daily life. Overall, 84% of Americans say that it is very important for people of all races to have equality of opportunity, but just 1-in-3 (36%) feel the same about having more racially integrated neighborhoods in our local communities. Fully 6-in-10 (59%) blacks feel that social integration is very important, but fewer Latinos (47%) and only 1-in-4 whites (28%) feel the same.
Nearly 1-in-4 (23%) Americans say they would actively seek out a mixed race neighborhood if they had to move to a new community, while 14% say they would prefer to move to a community where most people are the same race as them. Most Americans (61%) express no preference for the racial mix of their new neighborhood if they had to move. Half (50%) of black Americans are the most likely to say they would seek out a mixed race neighborhood. This compares to 29% of Latinos and 15% of whites who say the same. In fact white Americans are just as likely to say they would look for a same race neighborhood (17%) as they are to say they would look for a mixed race community (15%) if they had to move.
Just over half (53%) of Americans say they are very comfortable talking about race in public, such as at work or parties, including 52% of whites, 53% of blacks and 52% of Latinos. It’s worth noting that only 13% of whites say that most of their friends are of different races, while nearly 4-in-10 (41%) blacks and a majority (56%) of Latinos report that their circle of friends is mainly multi-racial. This may suggest that whites are less likely to find themselves in situations where they would be talking about race in multi-cultural company.
Al Jazeera America/Monmouth University conducted the poll by telephone from January 13 to 15 with 1,003 adults in the United States. This sample has a margin of error of + 3.1 percent. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch and cosponsored by Al Jazeera America in New York, N.Y.