PRINCETON, NJ -- Blacks are somewhat less satisfied now (41%) than they were earlier this summer (47%) with the way blacks are treated in the U.S. By contrast, their views of how other groups are treated are no worse today than they were in June and early July.
The Aug. 9-22 poll of 1,001 blacks was conducted as a follow-up of an earlier poll, to see whether blacks' views of race relations were affected by the "not guilty" verdict for George Zimmerman. On July 13, a Florida jury found Zimmerman, a white Hispanic neighborhood watch captain, not guilty in the shooting death of black teen Trayvon Martin.
Shortly after the verdict was announced, a July 16-21 Gallup poll found 85% of blacks, compared with 30% of whites, describing the verdict as "wrong."
The verdict was announced about a week after the completion of Gallup's June 13-July 5 Minority Rights and Relations poll, which had shown that Americans, including blacks, were a bit more positive about race relations than they had been in recent years.
Given that blacks' satisfaction with the way blacks are treated is down since June and early July, while their views of the way other minority groups are treated are unchanged or even up slightly, the verdict appears to have had at least a slight impact on how blacks perceive they are treated in the U.S.
Even with the decline, though, blacks' satisfaction with the way blacks are treated is higher than in 2006-2008, the latter years of George W. Bush's presidency. Since 2001, the first year Gallup asked the question, blacks have been consistently more likely to say they are dissatisfied than satisfied with the way blacks are treated.
Mixed Evidence on Effects of Verdict on Blacks' Views of White-Black Relations
The Zimmerman case may also have had a slightly negative impact on blacks' views of black-white relations specifically. Currently, 62% rate these as good, compared with 66% in the earlier poll. At the same time, blacks' views of white-Hispanic, white-Asian, and black-Hispanic relations are unchanged.
However, another measure of race relations, asking whether relations between whites and blacks "will always be a problem for the United States" or if "a solution will eventually be worked out," shows no change since June-July. Fifty percent of blacks say white-black relations will always be a problem, while 48% are optimistic about a solution.
The poll also documents a change since June in blacks' attitudes about the government's role in ensuring black civil rights and helping to improve the situation of blacks.
The opinions on race relations are especially relevant now, as Americans recognize the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s civil rights march on Washington, D.C. and his "I Have a Dream" speech. The march and speech were major events in the civil rights movement and helped promote the enactment of civil rights laws such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The Zimmerman verdict, as well as the commemoration of the civil rights march on Washington, has brought the issue of race back into the spotlight. Fifty years after the march, blacks and whites perceive racial issues very differently. The June-July Gallup poll suggested that U.S. attitudes about race were improving, perhaps as a result of the election of the first black president in 2008.
However, when a racially charged incident, such as the Zimmerman verdict, occurs, and blacks and whites perceive the issue differently, it can bring into question how much progress in racial equality there has been in the United States. And it appears that in some respects, blacks' attitudes about their group's treatment have become more negative in recent months.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 9-22, 2013, with a random sample of 1,001 blacks, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of blacks, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
All respondents were initially interviewed as part of Gallup Daily tracking and re-interviewed for this study.
Gallup Daily tracking samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, 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 (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). 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.
The obtained sample of re-contacts was weighted to match census demographics for blacks on gender, age, education and region.
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.