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The Black American Experience: Here Is What We Have Learned
Gallup Blog

The Black American Experience: Here Is What We Have Learned

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- This month, the Gallup Center on Black Voices celebrates its one-year anniversary. In July of last year, Gallup made a 100-year commitment to study the experiences and life outcomes of the more than 40 million adult Black Americans.

At that time, the highest percentage of Americans since 1968 considered race relations the most important problem facing the U.S. -- and the issue has remained relatively elevated since.

Line graph. Americans' mentions of race relations or racism as the most important problem facing the U.S., from July 1968 to June 2020. In June 2020, 19% of Americans named race relations or racism as the greatest problem facing the U.S.

The protests that erupted after George Floyd's murder last year drew widespread public support, including 92% among Black Americans. More than one in four young adults, aged 18 to 29, said they participated in a protest about racial justice and equality.

Americans' Support for Protests After George Floyd's Death
Do you support or oppose the recent protests that have taken place around the country following the death of George Floyd?
Support protests
U.S. adults 65
Black adults 92

Two in Three Americans Support Racial Justice Protests

The Black Experience With Police in the U.S.

Black Americans are less likely than other groups to feel confident about being treated respectfully in interactions with police in their area.

Confidence in Receiving Positive Treatment From Police
If you had an interaction with police in your area, how confident are you that they would treat you with courtesy and respect?
Very confident Somewhat confident Not too confident Not at all confident
% % % %
U.S. adults 48 37 11 4
Black adults 18 43 27 12

Not only are Black Americans much less likely to feel confident that they would be treated with courtesy and respect, but they are far more likely to say they know people who were treated unfairly by the police, unfairly sent to jail or stayed in jail because they didn't have enough bond money. Young Black adults are even more likely to know people who have experienced mistreatment from the police and the justice system -- and are more likely to know someone who remained in jail because they could not afford bail.

Americans' Reports of Knowing People Who Were Mistreated, by Race/Ethnicity
How many people, if any, do you know who personally had the following happen to them?
Treated unfairly by police Unfairly sent to jail Stayed in jail because
they didn't have enough
bail money
% A lot/some % A lot/some % A lot/some
U.S. adults 41 19 23
Black adults 71 50 51
Black adults aged 18-44 83 61 56

Black Adults More Likely to Know People Mistreated by Police

Confidence in the police, more generally, continues to lag among Black Americans, with far fewer having a great deal or quite a lot of confidence than is true for White Americans.

Line graph. Americans' confidence in the police. In 2021, 56% of Americans say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the police, compared to 27% of Black Americans.

In U.S., Black Confidence in Police Recovers From 2020 Low

Despite their subdued confidence in the police and broad awareness of negative experiences, the majority of Black Americans would prefer that police maintain their current presence in their area. Meanwhile, as many would rather the police spend more time in their area as want them to spend less time.

Preference for Amount of Time Police Spend in Your Area
Would you rather the police spend more time, the same amount of time or less time as they currently spend in your area?
More time Same amount of time Less time
% % %
U.S. adults 19 67 14
Black adults 20 61 19

Black Americans Want Police to Retain Local Presence

Black Americans are much less likely than White Americans to feel safe walking alone at night in the city or area where they live -- and Black women feel even less safe.

Bar graph. Americans' sense of safety when walking alone at night in their community, by race. Ninety-one percent of White men, 77% of White women, 71% of Black men and 51% of Black women feel safe walking alone at night in the city or area where they live.

Black Americans Less Likely to Feel Safe in Their Community

When it comes to police reform, nearly all Americans believe that policing in the U.S. needs major or minor changes. Nearly nine in 10 Black Americans believe major changes are needed.

Americans' Views of the Need for Changes in Policing
Which of the following best describes your view about changes that may or may not need to be made to policing in the United States?
Major changes needed Minor changes needed No changes needed
% % %
U.S. adults 58 36 6
Black adults 88 10 2

Most Americans Say Policing Needs 'Major Changes'

Some policing reforms enjoy broad support across racial and party lines.

Americans' Support for Policing Reform Options, by Race
Percentage who "strongly support" or "somewhat support" each reform idea
U.S. adults Black Americans
% %
Changing management practices so officers with multiple incidents of abuse of power are not allowed to serve 98 99
Requiring officers to have good relations with the community 97 97
Changing management practices so officer abuses are punished 96 98
Promoting community-based alternatives such as violence intervention 82 94
Ending stop and frisk 74 93
Eliminating police unions 56 61
Eliminating officer enforcement of nonviolent crimes 50 72
Reducing the budgets of police departments and shifting the money to social programs 47 70
Abolishing police departments 15 22

Black Opportunities and Experiences of Mistreatment

But the national conversation didn't stop with policing. Americans were beginning to acknowledge the racial disparities that exist in other systems in the U.S, including education, housing and job opportunities.

Three line graphs. U.S. adults' perceptions of Black Americans' opportunities for a good education, affordable housing and getting a job for which they are qualified. In 2020, 64% said Black Americans "have as good a chance" as White Americans to get a good education; 63% said they have as good a chance to get affordable housing; and 58% said they have as good a chance of getting any job for which they are qualified.

Optimism About Black Americans' Opportunities in U.S. Falls

One in four Black workers reported experiences of discrimination at their jobs in the past 12 months.

Reports of Experiences of Discrimination at Work, by Race/Ethnicity
In the past 12 months, have you felt discriminated against at work?
U.S. employees 18
Black employees 24
Hispanic employees 24
White employees 15
Gallup Panel, Nov. 6-Dec. 1, 2020

One in Four Black Workers Report Discrimination at Work

A more recent survey, which asked respondents about their experiences in the past 30 days, found that more than a third of Black Americans had experienced unfair treatment in a store while they were shopping. More than one in five reported similar experiences in a restaurant, bar, theater or other entertainment place.

Black Adults' Perceptions of Unfair Treatment
Can you think of any occasion in the last 30 days when you felt you were treated unfairly in the following places because you were a Black person?
Yes, treated unfairly
In a store where you were shopping 35
In a restaurant, bar, theater or other entertainment place 21
In dealings with the police, such as traffic incidents 20
At your place of work 17
While getting healthcare for yourself or a family member 17

Black Americans' Reports of Mistreatment Steady or Higher

Black Americans are more likely than other groups to report having been on the receiving end of microaggressions, including receiving worse service at restaurants and stores, and people treating them with fear or with less respect or courtesy than other people.

Black Americans' Reports of Experiences With Microaggressions
In your day-to-day life over the past 12 months, how often did any of the following things happen to you?
Very often/Often
People acted as if they were better than you 32
People acted as if they thought you were not smart 25
You were treated with less courtesy than other people 22
You were treated with less respect than other people 20
People acted as if they thought you were dishonest 19
People acted as if they were afraid of you 18
You received worse service than other people at restaurants or stores 14

The impact of discrimination at work on Black employees who report having experienced discrimination is heavier than is the case for White employees. Fewer Black employees who were discriminated against are considered "thriving" in their life evaluation ratings than Black employees who did not experience discrimination.

Three vertical line graphs. Percentage "thriving" among U.S. adults who did and did not experience discrimination at work in the past 12 months. 51% of Black workers who did not experience discrimination are thriving, while 37% of those who did experience discrimination are thriving.

Understanding the Effects of Discrimination in the Workplace

Black Americans are also less likely to report having leaders of their own race or ethnicity at work.

Black, Hispanic Workers Less Likely Than White Workers to Report Workplace Leaders of Their Own Race
People of my race/ethnicity hold positions of leadership in my organization.
Black workers White workers Hispanic workers
% % %
5 "Strongly agree" 37 55 40
4 22 24 25
3 19 13 18
2 11 4 10
1 "Strongly disagree" 11 4 8

Representation Shapes Black Employees' Work Experience

Many employers in the U.S. seek to respond to the national conversation on race, but managers on the front lines are unprepared for such conversations. Less than half of U.S. managers strongly agree that they are prepared to have meaningful conversations about race and equality with their teams.

Managers' Preparedness to Discuss Issues of Race With Their Teams
I feel prepared to have meaningful conversations about race and equality with my team(s).
Strongly agree
Among all U.S. managers 42
Among managers who strongly agree their
organization is committed to improving racial equality
Among managers who do not strongly agree their
organization is committed to improving racial equality
Gallup Panel, Nov. 6-Dec. 1, 2020

Most U.S. Managers Not Fully Prepared to Talk About Race

Gallup Findings Throughout Black History

During the past year, we dug through our archives and revisited key moments in Black history.

  • On Nov. 13, 1956, the Supreme Court struck down an Alabama law requiring segregated seating on city buses, trains and public waiting rooms. Several months later, Gallup found 60% of Americans supporting that ruling -- including 27% support in Southern states and 70% support outside the South.
1957: The Supreme Court has also ruled that racial segregation on trains, buses and in public waiting rooms must end. Do you approve or disapprove of this ruling?
U.S. adults South Non-South
% % %
Approve 60 27 70
Disapprove 33 64 22
No opinion 7 9 8
Gallup, July 18-23, 1957

Gallup Vault: 60 Years Ago, the End of "Separate but Equal"

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the final death knell to segregation in public places in the U.S. About six in 10 Americans approved of the legislation, though most (62%) supported a gradual approach rather than a strict enforcement from the beginning.

Americans' Support for New Civil Rights Law in 1964
As you know, a civil rights law was recently passed by Congress and signed by the president. In general, do you approve or disapprove of this law?
U.S. adults
Approve 59
Disapprove 31
Don't know 10
Gallup for the Institute for International Social Research, September 1964

Gallup Vault: Americans Narrowly OK'd 1964 Civil Rights Law

  • The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed by President Lyndon Johnson to address the barriers to voting that were in place for many Black Americans. A Gallup poll taken months before its passage found that the legislation was favored by more than three in four Americans (76%) -- though by less than half of White Southerners (49%).

Americans' Views on Equal Voting Rights, 1965
A law has been proposed (by President Johnson) that would allow the federal government to send officials into areas where the turnout of eligible adults in the last presidential election was so low that it suggested that some persons were denied the right to vote. These officials would make sure Negroes and whites are given an equal opportunity to register and to vote. Would you favor or oppose such a law?
U.S. adults% White Southerners%
Favor 76 49
Oppose 16 37
No opinion 8 14
Gallup, March 18-23, 1965

Gallup Vault: Americans Side With Voting Rights Reforms

Before the federal government made Juneteenth an official holiday this year, more than a fourth of Americans said they didn't know anything at all about Juneteenth.

U.S. Adults' Familiarity With Juneteenth, 2021
How much do you know about the Juneteenth holiday?
A lot Some A little bit Nothing at all
% % % %
U.S. adults 12 25 34 28
Black adults 37 32 27 4
GALLUP PANEL, MAY 18-23, 2021

Most Americans Know About the Juneteenth Holiday

Just before its passage, Black Americans were the most supportive group of making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

U.S. Adults' Views on Making Juneteenth a Federal Holiday
Do you think Juneteenth should be a federal holiday?
Yes No Don't know/Unfamiliar
with Juneteenth
% % %
National adults 35 25 40
Black adults 69 14 18
GALLUP PANEL, MAY 18-23, 2021

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