PRINCETON, NJ -- Black Americans are significantly less likely now than they were 20 years ago to cite discrimination as the main reason blacks on average have worse jobs, income, and housing than whites. Today, 37% of blacks say these differences are due to discrimination and 60% say they are caused by something else. In 1993, 44% said such differences were due to discrimination and 48% something else.
The results are from Gallup's Minority Rights and Relations poll, conducted June 13-July 5, and completed before last week's verdict in the George Zimmerman trial that brought race relations back into the spotlight. The poll surveyed 4,373 Americans, including 1,010 non-Hispanic blacks.
The question did not specify what the "something else" causing the average socioeconomic differences might be, but the trend over the past two decades clearly suggests blacks are less likely to view discrimination as the cause of such differences.
Whites also -- like blacks -- over the past two decades have shifted toward the "something else" explanation for black-white differences in jobs, income, and housing. Still, whites have remained consistently less likely than blacks to ascribe these differences to discrimination each time Gallup has asked the question.
Overall, 20% of all national adults say black-white differences in jobs, income, and housing are due to discrimination, compared with 24% in 1993, when Gallup first asked the question.
The percentage of blacks who say black-white differences in socioeconomic attainment are due to discrimination rises with age, from 30% among blacks aged 18 to 34, to 47% among blacks 55 and older. Older blacks may be more familiar with the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, and many lived a significant part of their lives before today's federal laws aimed at reducing discrimination in hiring, housing, and education were passed. These data suggest that with the passage of time, and if these patterns don't change in the years ahead, the percentage of blacks who perceive discrimination as the cause for black-white differences may drop further.
Blacks More Likely to Say Discrimination Related to Incarceration
Gallup for the first time asked in this year's Minority Rights and Relations poll if the fact that black males are on average more likely to go to prison than white males is a result of discrimination or something else. Blacks are more likely to perceive discrimination as the cause of racial differences in imprisonment rates than they are when asked about racial differences in socioeconomic status. Specifically, 50% of blacks say the higher black male incarceration rate is due to discrimination, while 48% say it is due to something else. Whites are much less likely to ascribe the cause to discrimination.
Gallup asked this question because the high percentage of black men who serve time in prison has in recent years become a focal point of discussion and concern. In 2011, U.S. Department of Justice statistics indicated that more than 3% of all black males were in prison, compared with 0.5% of white males and 1.2% of Hispanic males. Other estimates find that one in three black males can expect to be in prison at some point in their lifetime.
As is the case in views of socioeconomic differences between blacks and whites, older blacks are the most likely to say the higher black male incarceration rate is due to discrimination, while younger blacks are about evenly divided on the issue.
Although the question focused on black males, there are essentially no gender differences in blacks' responses, with black men dividing 49% to 48%, respectively, in their choice between discrimination and something else as the cause for higher black male incarceration rates, very similar to the 51% to 47% divide among black women.
ImplicationsThere is no doubt that the history of slavery, segregation, and overt racial discrimination in American history are significant explanatory factors behind the black-white socioeconomic divide in society. The results of this study show that the degree to which blacks and whites continue to perceive that such discrimination is the primary cause of this divide has changed somewhat over recent decades. While blacks are significantly more likely than whites to say that blacks' lower average attainment in the jobs, income, and housing arenas is due to discrimination, they have become less likely to say so, with fewer than four in 10 believing it to be the case today. But about half of blacks -- and about six in 10 older blacks -- perceive that black males' high relative rate of serving time in the nation's prisons is due to racial discrimination.
Results are based on telephone interviews conducted June 13-July 5, 2013 with 4,373 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, including oversamples of black and Hispanic adults. All respondents had previously been interviewed in the Gallup Daily tracking survey. The total sample is weighted to represent racial and ethnic groups proportionately to their share of the U.S. population. For results based on this sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of error is ±2 percentage points.
For results based on sample of 1,010 non-Hispanic blacks, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, non-response, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cell phone-only/landline only/both and cell phone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.