Race relations in the United States right now are at a 20-year low, according to a new poll from the Wall Street Journal…but you didn’t need a poll to tell you that, did you?
This month, only 34% of Americans believe race relations in the U.S. are fairly good or very good, down from a high of 77% in January 2009, after the election of Barack Obamaas America’s first black president.
The figure is the lowest since 34% in October 1995, after the acquittal on murder charges of African-American former football star O.J. Simpson, a traumatic and racially polarizing event.
“This is a very sad chart,” Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm that conducted the poll for The Wall Street Journal and NBC News, said of the figures. “It’s a reminder… what a continued rupture point in our country race is.”
Just Wednesday afternoon, a judge declared a mistrial in the criminal trial of a Baltimore police officer charged in connection with the death of an African American man last April
Over the past two decades, blacks and Hispanics have always had slightly more negative views on race relations in the U.S. than whites. But for about four years following the election of Mr. Obama in November 2008, majorities of the three demographic groups viewed race relations in the U.S. as very or fairly good.
In February 2012, a white volunteer neighborhood watchman named George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was black and unarmed, at an apartment complex in Florida, after reporting to police he had seen a “suspicious person” and was stepping from his vehicle to investigate. Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted of murder in July 2013.
Since then, a series of police killings of unarmed black teenagers or men – in Missouri, New York City, South Carolina, Chicago, Cincinnati and beyond, have sparked outraged protests and have significantly diminished views of race relations among all racial groups, the polls show.
In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 26% of African Americans, 33% of whites and 38% of Hispanics view race relations as very or fairly good.
The issue is not free from partisan divide, however.
In the same Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 22% of Democrats said the debate and protests over the use of force by police was one of the most personally important news events of the year, compared to 7% of Republicans.
The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll of 1,000 adults was conducted Dec. 6-9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Are you surprised at the study? We’re not.