New Report: Americans Are Divided on Whether Increased Focus on Race Will Lead to Change

By Shani Saxon Oct 07, 2020

As massive protests against police brutality and systemic racism continue throughout the United States, many Americans doubt that this current racial reckoning will lead to actual policy changes, according to a new survey published Tuesday (October 6) by nonpartisan think tank Pew Research Center

According to Pew Research Center:

The public is about evenly split on whether the increased focus on issues of race and racial inequality in the country in the past three months will lead to major policy changes to address racial inequality (48 percent say it will and 51 percent say it will not). A sizable share (46 percent) say this will not lead to changes that will improve the lives of Black people. And while a majority say the heightened attention to racial issues represents a change in the way most Americans think about these issues, just 34 percent say this represents a major change. 

More than any other racial or ethnic group, Black Americans have been energized by public condemnations of police violence, primarily sparked by the high-profile police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others. “A majority of Black adults (64 percent) say they have been paying a lot of attention to issues of race and racial inequality in the past three months, and 59 percent say they have been paying more attention to these issues than they did before,” according to the report. On the other hand, roughly four of 10 white, Latinx and Asian adults say they have been paying a lot of attention to issues of racial inequality. 

Over the past year, Americans—particularly Black and Latinx adults and Democrats across racial and ethnic groups—have a more negative view of America’s progress on racial equality. 

Reports Pew:

Overall, 49 percent of U.S. adults now say the country hasn’t gone far enough when it comes to Black people having equal rights with white people, up from 45 percent in early 2019. Among Black Americans, an even larger share say this is the case today than did so in 2019 (86 percent vs. 78 percent). And while a majority of Hispanics (57 percent) now say the country hasn’t gone far enough in this regard, 48 percent said the same last year. Meanwhile, the views of white Americans are virtually unchanged. 

Black Americans, according to the survey, are more likely than in 2019 to say the country doesn’t focus enough on issues of race. "73 percent now say this, up from 67 percent early last year. Just 12 percent of Black Americans say there’s too much attention paid to these issues and 14 percent say it’s about right," the report states. White Americans’ views on this issue have remained virtually unchanged since 2019. Roughly "half of White adults (51 percent) say there’s too much attention paid to race and racial issues these days, while 26 percent say there’s too little attention and 22 percent say it’s about right."

The survey also points to Democrats as being "far more likely than Republicans" to believe the country’s recent focus on systemic racism will result in a societal shift and policy changes.

The report also states: "The public is split on whether the increased focus on race sparked by Floyd’s death will result in major policy changes to address inequality: 48 percent say it will and 51 percent say it will not. And while about half (52 percent) say that it will lead to changes that improve the lives of Black people, a smaller but still sizeable share (46 percent) say that it will not.

Overall, the Pew Research Center survey shows that, in spite of the country’s current focus on race, most Americans have barely changed their opinions of "how much being white, Black or Latinx helps or hurts a person’s ability to get ahead" compared with 2019.

According to the survey:

As was the case last year, Black (81 percent) and Asian (81 percent) adults are more likely than White (55 percent) and Hispanic (58 percent) adults to say being white helps people’s ability to get ahead in our country, although majorities across racial and ethnic groups say being white gives people advantages. The share of Black adults who say being white helps has increased by double digits since 2019, when 69 percent of Black Americans said this (72 percent of Black adults now say being white helps a lot, compared with 59 percent last year). Views on this have not changed significantly among white, Hispanic or Asian adults.

Click here to read the full report.