Racial Divide Remains Wide

Whether you agree or disagree with his presidential politics, one could at least hope that the presence of Barack Obama in the White House would help improve race relations. Apparently not, according to a new survey from the Mobilization, Change, and Political Civic Engagement Project at the University of Chicago.

About 69 percent of black respondents said that racism continues to be a major problem. That compares with 29 percent of whites, 32 percent of Asians, and 51 percent of Latinos who agreed with the statement. Across race, young people were less likely to say that racism is a major problem, according to the poll. The greatest disparity is among African-Americans, with 74 percent of older black respondents saying that racism is a major problem, compared with 60 percent of 18-to-35-year-olds. The find likely reflects older minorities’ experience of legal segregation.

The poll echoes years of surveys that have shown minorities less optimistic about race relations and more likely to describe racism as a continuing factor in American life. What’s striking is that President Obama’s victory appears to have made no difference in blacks’ attitudes.

"How is it that heading toward midterm elections in November, large percentages of black people ages 16 to 25 continue to feel alienated from mainstream American society and are contemplating not whom to vote for but whether to bother voting at all?" said Cathy Cohen, a political science professor at the University of Chicago who led the research.

Other key findings, a gap between whites and blacks exists between the two races on the question of whether African-Americans have achieved racial equality. Fifty percent of whites say that blacks have achieved racial equality, but just 12 percent of blacks do.