Gallup: Relations between black and white Americans have hit a new low

AP Photo/John Minchillo

This will come as a surprise to no one but Gallup’s latest survey on race relations in the United States shows a further decline this year. In fact, the number of people who say things are good or somewhat good has hit a new low for two years in a row. Gallup notes that this latest sample was being conducted at the time that Derek Chauvin was sentenced.

For the second consecutive year, U.S. adults’ positive ratings of relations between Black and White Americans are at their lowest point in more than two decades of measurement. Currently, 42% of Americans say relations between the two groups are “very” or “somewhat” good, while 57% say they are “somewhat” or “very” bad…

The latest findings are from a June 1-July 5 Gallup poll that includes an oversample of Black Americans weighted to their correct proportion of the population. During the poll’s field period, Derek Chauvin, the former police officer convicted of killing Floyd, was sentenced to one of the longest prison terms ever handed down to a U.S. police officer for unlawful use of deadly force.

Gallup’s polling on this issue goes back to 2001 and it’s clear looking at the entire series where the main inflection point was:

Between 2013 and 2015 things change. Gallup assumes (rightly, I think) that this is the result of “several high-profile killings of unarmed Black people by police officers.” Actually, the first case that probably shifted these results was the death of Trayvon Martin which didn’t involve a police officer. Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in 2012 but the trial ended in the acquittal of Zimmerman in July 2013. This was followed by another high-profile case, the shooting of Michael Brown, in 2014.

For most of the last 20 years there has been a racial gap on the question of race relations, with white Americans rating them better than black Americans. That gap has continued since 2016 and in the last two surveys has been steady at 10 points.

Gallup points out that the poor ratings on race relations are unique to black and white Americans. Similar measures between other racial groups in America remain positive:

Majorities of Americans rate relations between Hispanic and White people, Black and Hispanic people, Asian and White people, and Black and Asian people as good. Full details of these data will be reported in a subsequent story.

Finally, Gallup has also asked respondents a question about their optimist for the future of race relations in America. Here again there is a significant gap that has varied between 10 and 20 points over the last two decades. White adults tend to be more optimistic about the future than black adults but both groups have generally trended upward.

There’s an obvious peak on the green line (black adults) in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected. What’s surprising though is that the highest peak for black adults comes in 2020, presumably the survey took place before the death of George Floyd. But then this year the outlook on the future is as divided as it has ever been with 20 points separating white and black adults.