CBS News/New York Times Poll: Race Relations Worst In Over 2 Decades

Poll Follows Unrest Following Death Of Freddie Gray In Baltimore

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A new poll released Monday indicated that Americans believe race relations are at their worst in more than two decades.

The CBS News/New York Times poll said 61 percent of Americans characterize race relations in the U.S. as “bad,” including a majority of white and black respondents. The figure is the highest since 1992.
A total of 79 percent of African-Americans believe police are more likely to use deadly force against a black person than against a white person, while 53 percent of whites believe race does not play a role, the survey said.

Black respondents were also more likely than white respondents to believe their local police make them feel anxious rather than safe, the poll said.

The latest poll came in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray in police custody in Baltimore – an incident that has sparked heated unrest. Similar negativity about race relations was last seen at the time of the Los Angeles riots following the acquittal of police officers in the beating of Rodney King, the poll said.

This was also the first time since 1997 that majorities of both white and black Americans believe race relations in the U.S. are poor, the poll said. Opinions among white Americans have grown sharply more negative in the poll even compared with earlier this year – with 62 percent of whites saying race relations are bad compared with just 35 percent in February.

Black respondents have historically had a more negative view than white respondents about race relations, but the level of pessimism is now similar, according to the poll.

Also, fewer than one in five white Americans think race relations are getting better – with 44 percent responding that relations are getting worse and 37 percent saying they’re staying about the same.

Most respondents – 64 percent of whites and 57 percent of blacks – thought the unrest in Baltimore following Gray’s death was not justified, the poll said.

Six in 10 respondents had a lot or some confidence that the investigation into Gray’s death would be conducted fairly, but the figure was split along racial lines, the poll said. A total of 64 percent of whites say they have at least some confidence in a fair investigation, but 52 percent of blacks have little or no such confidence, the poll said.

But black respondents expressed more confidence in the Gray investigation – at 46 percent – than they did into the investigation into the death of Michael Brown in police custody in Ferguson, Missouri last year.

In terms of views of police officers in their community, three in four respondents said the presence of officers makes them feel safe. But the figure is again split down racial lines – with eight in 10 white respondents saying police officers mostly make them feel safe, compared with 51 percent for black respondents.

Younger Americans were more likely than older Americans to report that police officers make them anxious, the poll said.

A sizable majority of all respondents agreed that on-duty officers should wear body cameras – amounting to 93 percent of both black and white respondents.

The poll was conducted between Thursday, April 30 and Sunday, May 3 among a random sample of 1,027 adults.

The margin of error is plus or minus three points, but is different for subgroups. For the sample of African-Americans, the margin of error is nine points; for whites four points.


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