Poll Highlights Deep Divides Over Increased Attention on Racism, History of Slavery

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About 50% of U.S. adults say increased attention to these topics is a "good thing for society," but that belief is not held evenly across political parties and racial and ethnic groups, according to the Pew Research Center.

About half of U.S. adults say that increased attention to the history of slavery and racism in America is “a good thing for society,” according to a national survey by the Pew Research Center. But that view is not held evenly across political parties and racial and ethnic groups, with support concentrated among minority and Democratic poll respondents.

Among Black adults 75% say heightened public attention to these topics is either a “very good” or “somewhat good” thing for society, with 54% saying it is “very good.” Asian American (64%) and Hispanic (59%) residents also view attention to slavery and racism in a positive way, though smaller shares say it is a very good thing.

White adults have very different opinions, the survey shows. Just 46% say greater attention to the history of slavery and racism is good for society, and 24% say it is very good. 

The opinions of Republicans and Democrats vary even more. Just 25% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say greater attention to the history of slavery and racism is a good thing, while 46% say it’s a bad thing. But 78% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning survey takers across racial and ethnic groups said the topic is good to discuss, and just 9% said it was bad. 

Equal Rights for All?

U.S. residents also have greatly different opinions on equal rights. About 80% of Black adults surveyed say there needs to be more done to ensure equal rights for all residents. This includes 58% who say that national laws and major institutions need to be “completely rebuilt” because they are fundamentally biased. 

On the other hand, 59% of Hispanics and 56% of Asian Americans surveyed say a lot more needs to be done to achieve racial equality, and just 30% of Hispanics and 24% of Asian Americans say laws and institutions are biased and need to be changed.

Among white adults, 42% say a lot more needs to be done to ensure racial equality, but only 18% say most laws and institutions need to be changed.

Republicans overwhelmingly think little (47%) or nothing (30%) needs to be done to ensure equal rights regardless of a person’s racial or ethnic background, and just 7% say institutions need to be rebuilt because they are biased. 

Meanwhile, 74% of Democrats surveyed say a lot needs to be done to achieve racial equality, and 40% say this will require changing most laws and institutions.

Finally, Black adults are very skeptical about the progress the U.S. has made in ensuring equal rights during the past 50 years. Only 19% say a lot of progress has been made; 64% say little progress and 16% say no progress has been made. 

Meanwhile, 38% of Hispanics, 44% of Asian Americans and 56% of whites say a lot of progress has been made.

The Pew Research Center survey was conducted July 8-18 among 10,221 adults nationwide. For more information from the survey click here.

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