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Blacks Remain Bearish on Economy

Economic ratings improve among whites and Hispanics

by Raksha Arora

Americans as a whole are gloomy about economic conditions, but minorities appear to be particularly dejected. Gallup's annual Minority Relations poll* reveals a continuing gulf in views of current economic conditions, as well as the specific economic problems facing the nation.

Economic Conditions

In four Gallup Minority Relations polls since 2001, white Americans have been consistently more optimistic than blacks about the state of the economy, with Hispanics' perceptions ranging somewhere in between and aligning closer to whites'. Hispanics' and whites' ratings of economic conditions improved from 2003 to 2005, with whites' perceptions improving more than Hispanics'. But black Americans remain as pessimistic about economic conditions as they were in 2003. According to the June 6-25 poll, 40% of whites rate economic conditions as excellent or good, as do 32% of Hispanics. Only 14% of blacks say the same.

Blacks are also far more bearish than whites and Hispanics about future economic conditions in the United States. In 2005, 37% of whites and 33% of Hispanics say economic conditions are getting better. About half that percentage of blacks -- 18% -- say conditions are improving. In 2003, twice as many whites as blacks said they believe that economic conditions in the country as a whole are getting better.

Most Important Problem

When asked to name the most important problem facing the country, the three racial and ethnic groups attach similar importance to the economy in general and rising fuel prices. But they diverge on the subject of unemployment. Nineteen percent of blacks name unemployment/jobs as the most important problem facing the country, significantly more than the percentage of whites (11%) or Hispanics who do the same (7%). That has also been the case in other past Gallup Minority Relations polls (with the exception of 2003 when economic ratings were worse among whites and Hispanics than they are now).

The finding of differences in the perceived importance of unemployment is consistent with the higher unemployment rate among blacks -- in June, the unemployment rate among blacks was 10.3%, 4.3% among whites, and 5.8% among Hispanics. These disparities have been evident for at least the last decade.

Echoing the concern about unemployment among black Americans, the majority of blacks believe racial minorities in the United States do not have the same access to job opportunities that whites enjoy. More than two-thirds (76%) of blacks say minorities do not have equal job opportunities as whites; 53% of Hispanics and 39% of whites agree.

*Results are based on telephone interviews with 2,264 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted June 6-25, 2005, including oversamples of blacks and Hispanics that are weighted to reflect their proportions in the general population. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

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