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Pew study finds
African-Americans have positive attitude about recent progress
(January 11, 2010) Despite the bad economy, blacks' assessments about
the state of black progress in America have improved more dramatically
during the past two years than at any time in the past quarter century,
according to a comprehensive new nationwide Pew Research Center survey
Barack Obama's election as the nation's first black president appears to
be the spur for this sharp rise in optimism among African Americans. It
may also be reflected in an upbeat set of black views on a range of
other matters, including race relations, local community satisfaction
and expectations for future black progress.
In each of these realms, the perceptions of blacks have changed for the
better over the past two years, despite a deep recession and jobless
recovery that have hit blacks especially hard.
The telephone survey was conducted from Oct. 28 to Nov. 30, 2009 among a
nationally representative sample of 2,884 adults, including 812 blacks.
In some topic areas, the survey finds little change in black opinions.
For example, four decades after the turmoil, triumphs and tragedies of
the Civil Rights era, most blacks still doubt the basic racial fairness
of American society. More than eight-in-ten blacks -- compared with just
over a third of whites -- say the country needs to make more changes to
ensure that blacks have equal rights with whites. Blacks also continue
to lag behind whites in their satisfaction with their lives and local
communities, and most remain skeptical that the police treat blacks and
However, in the teeth of what may be the deepest recession since the
Great Depression, nearly twice as many blacks now (39%) as in 2007 (20%)
say that the "situation of black people in this country" is better than
it was five years earlier, and this more positive view is apparent among
blacks of all age groups and income levels. Looking ahead, blacks are
even more upbeat. More than half (53%) say that life for blacks in the
future will be better than it is now, while just 10% say it will be
worse. In 2007, 44% said things would be better for blacks in the
future, while 21% said they would be worse.
A majority of blacks (54%) also report that Obama's barrier-breaking
election has improved race relations in America; just 7% say it has made
race relations worse. Whites, too, see progress on this front, though by
much smaller margins. A plurality of whites (45%) say Obama's election
has made no difference to race relations, while about a third (32%) say
it has made things better and 15% say it has made race relations worse.
For both races, these appraisals are not as effusive as the expectations
expressed immediately after the November 2008 election, when nearly half
of white voters (48%) and three-quarters of black voters (74%) said they
expected to see race relations improve during Obama's presidency.
As for Obama himself, one year into his presidency, his personal
favorability rating runs well ahead of public support for his policies,
though both have declined in the course of a year marked by highly
partisan battles over his policy agenda. His support is higher among
blacks than whites, but there is little to suggest that negative
opinions about Obama among whites have been driven mostly by race. For
example, only a small share of whites (13%) say Obama has been paying
too much attention to the concerns of blacks.