Story at a glance

  • A recent poll from NBC News and Wall Street Journal showed that a majority of voters say American society is racist.
  • The finding is nearly identical to the results of a similar survey in 1988.
  • The survey also asked about views on race relations and other current events, including the Black Lives Matter movement and the removal of Confederate monuments.

For those who might have believed in a post-racial society, the events in recent months have been a rude awakening. A NBC News and Wall Street Journal poll shows that 56 percent of voters surveyed said American society is racist, while 40 percent disagree. 

What’s perhaps more surprising than the finding itself is that the numbers are not new. In 1988, an Associated Press (AP) survey found that 55 percent of voters said American society is racist. Decades later, that number has barely budged and Americans are more pessimistic than ever. 


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In 2008, more than 7 in 10 voters said that race relations were good. Now, 6 in 10 voters say race relations are bad, across both parties and multiple racial groups. Nearly 60 percent say Black Americans experience discrimination, 52 percent say Hispanic Americans experience discrimination and 34 percent say Asian Americans experience discrimination. But at the same time, just about 30 percent of voters say white people receive too many special privileges, compared to 53 percent that say white Americans are treated fairly. 


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The new poll did find, however, that voters are more likely now than in past decades to say that they support protesters who demonstrated over the killing of George Floyd; that it is appropriate for athletes to kneel during the national anthem to protest against racial inequality; that Confederate statues should be removed from public spaces; and that they see the Black Lives Matter movement positively. 

But these shifts are less significant among Republicans than they are among Democrats, the poll found. In fact, the 17 percent of Republicans who say Hispanic Americans experience discrimination is a decrease from the 20 percent who said the same in 2000. Just 26 percent of Republicans say that Black Americans experience discrimination, and 12 percent say the same for Asian Americans. At the same time, Republicans are most likely to believe that white Americans face discrimination, with 28 percent reporting that belief.


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Published on Jul 22, 2020