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Perceptions of Opportunities and Equality Differ Widely Along Racial Lines

Majority of Americans think race relations have gotten worse, but differing views persist

A new poll finds differing perceptions on racial opportunity in the U.S. (Photo: DryHundredFear/flickr/cc)

Perceptions of equality in the U.S. are still sharply divided by race, even as a majority of Americans acknowledge that race relations have declined in the past year, a new survey released Monday has found.

The survey, conducted by PBS Newshour/Marist Poll, asked respondents if they believed that black and white Americans receive equal pay for equal work and have equal job opportunities. Answers revealed that 61 percent of whites believed there is no racial pay gap, while 72 percent of blacks believed there is.

Despite those divides, a majority of all those surveyed—56 percent of black respondents and 60 percent of whites—said that race relations have gotten worse over the past year.

However, when looked at in more specific contexts, the perception of what has fueled racial tension seemed to differ among the groups. Nearly two-thirds of whites said they think the Black Lives Matter movement "distracts attention from racial discrimination." Meanwhile, 65 percent of black respondents said it does the opposite.

The survey addressed racial discrimination in a variety of contexts. As NPR reports:

Some of the survey's widest disparities between black and white respondents were on economic and social justice issues.

For example, equal opportunity for getting hired for a job: While 52 percent of whites said they feel the opportunity to get a job was equal among whites and blacks, more than two-thirds of African-American respondents (76 percent) said it was not equal.

And when it comes to equal justice under the law, white Americans were almost evenly split. Exactly half of whites said African-Americans and Caucasians had the opportunity for equal justice under the law, while 46 percent disagreed. Among African-Americans, only 11 percent said the opportunity for equal justice is shared by blacks and whites, while 87 percent said it was not.

As for the question of police brutality, responses were even more stark, with 42 percent of whites believing that police give equal treatment to people of both races, while 90 percent of black respondents disagreed. However, the results found that a majority of Americans overall believe police do not treat black and white people equally, with a final count among both races standing at 36 percent to 60 percent.

"I think what we were looking at was to get a sense of Americans today and their view on race relations, and see areas of similarity, areas of disagreement," Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, told NPR. "And to get a handle on what is obviously something that brings forth a lot of emotion, particularly in the context of recent shootings and issues of police community behavior."

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