Americans’ views on the state of race relations are at their worst since the 1992 riots that swept Los Angeles after police officers were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds. Sixty-one percent of respondents said race relations are “generally bad,” up from 44 percent following the August police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the most negative view in more than two decades.
The survey of 1,027 adults was conducted April 30 through May 3, during a week of unrest in Baltimore sparked by the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died after being injured in police custody. On May 1, the Baltimore state’s attorney charged six officers in connection with Gray’s death, which the prosecutor said resulted from a fatal injury Gray suffered while riding in a police van.
The results of the poll showed for the first time since 1997 that a majority of both whites (62 percent) and blacks (65 percent) say race relations are bad, CBS reported. In February, just 35 percent of whites held that view. The survey has a 9-point margin of error among black respondents, and 4-point margin of error among white respondents.
At the same time, blacks and whites surveyed expressed markedly different views about the use of deadly force by police, and whether or not police presence makes them feel safe.
“Blacks are more than twice as likely to say police in most communities are more apt to use deadly force against a black person — 79 percent of blacks say so compared with 37 percent of whites,” the New York Times wrote.
Forty-two percent of black respondents said that police presence in their communities makes them feel "mostly anxious," compared with just 16 percent of whites. At the same time, blacks were less likely (51 percent) than whites (81 percent) to say that police in their communities make them feel "mostly safe."