Most Americans think that race relations in the U.S. are bad, and a substantial minority believe they are getting worse, according to the results of a New York Times/CBS News poll published Thursday.
The poll, which surveyed 1,205 people from across the country, asked respondents about a number of racial concerns. It found that about six in 10 Americans -- 57 percent -- viewed race relations as being “generally bad,” a figure slightly down from the last month the poll was conducted in April, but at least 13 points higher than poll findings in earlier months.
Both blacks and whites view race relations negatively -- with 40 percent of both groups saying relations were getting worse, almost double the amount of all respondents who said that they were improving. The level of discontent about race relations among blacks has now soared to 68 percent, the highest level during the Obama presidency, and close to the numbers recorded in the aftermath of the riots that followed the acquittal of Los Angeles police officers charged in the beating of Rodney King in 1992.
The survey also exposed deep racial divides on many important aspects of society, in particular the criminal justice system and voting. While only 17 percent of whites said they felt “mostly anxious” about the police in their community, 37 percent of black respondents felt this way. Forty-one percent of black respondents also said that they believed they had been stopped by police because of their ethnic background, compared to five percent of whites.
When it comes to voting, seven in 10 white Americans think blacks and whites are treated the same, but 50 percent of blacks think black Americans are more likely to face problems voting than whites.
Respondents gave President Barack Obama a mixed review for his handling of race relations in the U.S. Overall, 46 percent of Americans approve of how Obama is handling race relations, while 44 percent disapprove. Among whites, more disapprove than approve (50 percent – 40 percent), while 72 percent blacks approve of his performance.
At the same time, there was some positive news from the poll: A majority of respondents -- 71 percent -- and majorities of both blacks and whites felt that the U.S. was making progress in getting rid of racial discrimination.