Changing Attitudes about Racial Inequality

A collaborative analysis by The AP-NORC Center and the GSS staff using the 2018 General Social Survey finds that attitudes about race have been liberalizing.

Attitudes toward race relations are liberalizing, with increasing support for government assistance to black Americans. A collaborative analysis by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the General Social Survey (GSS) staff using the 2018 General Social Survey shows that more Americans than ever (52 percent) say the government spends too little on improving the conditions of blacks and that more say the government should try to make up for past discrimination (28 percent). These increases occurred across ages and racial groups and among Democrats, independents, and Republicans.

Americans overall are also now more likely to attribute inequalities between blacks and whites to discrimination (up from 33 percent in 2014 to 45 percent in 2018) and lack of access to education (up from 42 percent in 2014 to 50 percent in 2018) and are less likely to attribute them to a lack of motivation or will among blacks (down from 45 in 2014 percent to 36 percent in 2018). White Democrats show some of the largest shifts in attitudes.

Still, few favor affirmative action for blacks to make up for past discrimination. Just 23 percent support preferential hiring and promotion, though this represents an increase compared to 2014 (18 percent). More than half (57 percent) also agree that blacks should work their way up without special favors, but this is down from 68 percent in 2014 and at an all-time low. This shift occurred across racial groups and among Democrats, independents, and Republicans, but it was particularly large among white Democrats.

Attitudes have also hardened against racist speech. More Americans now say they would disapprove of allowing a racist professor to teach at a college or university (up from 51 percent  in 2014 to 56 percent in 2018) or would support the removal of a racist book from the bookshelves of their local public library (up from 35 percent in 2016 to 39 percent in 2018).

Additionally, the share of Americans saying it is ever okay for a police officer to strike a male citizen has reached an all-time low of 61 percent.