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As Redress for Slavery, Americans Oppose Cash Reparations

As Redress for Slavery, Americans Oppose Cash Reparations

Story Highlights

  • 67% say government should not provide cash payments to slaves' descendants
  • Most blacks support cash-based reparations from the government
  • Democrats are divided on the question

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In June, the U.S. House of Representatives' Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties held a hearing on reparations to African Americans for the first time in more than in a decade. While reparations could take many forms, the most straightforward would be cash payments by the government to descendants of American slaves. Most Americans (67%) say the government should not make such payments, but 29% say it should, including the solid majority of black Americans (73%).

Americans' Views on Reparations
Do you think the government should -- or should not -- make cash payments to black Americans who are descendants of slaves?
Should Should not Don't know/Refused
% % %
All Americans 29 67 4
Non-Hispanic white 16 81 3
Non-Hispanic black 73 25 2
Hispanic 47 46 6
Party ID
Republican 5 92 2
Independent 32 65 4
Democrat 49 47 4
Party ID with leaners
Republican/Lean Republican 8 90 2
Democrat/Lean Democratic 47 49 4
Gallup, June 19-July 12, 2019

In contrast to blacks' support for reparations, 16% of non-Hispanic white Americans say the government should make such payments to Americans who are the descendants of slaves.

While the current 29% support among all Americans is low in absolute terms, more support the idea of reparations today than did so in 2002, when 14% were in favor as the subject was making news. Since then, support is up slightly among whites, from 6% to 16%, while it has increased more dramatically among blacks -- from a simple majority in 2002 to nearly three-quarters today.

Americans' Views on Reparations, 2002 vs. 2019
Do you think the government should -- or should not -- make cash payments to black Americans who are descendants of slaves?
Should Should not Don't know/Refused
% % %
National adults
2019 Jun 19-Jul 12 29 67 4
2002 Jan 25-27 14 81 5
Non-Hispanic whites
2019 Jun 19-Jul 12 16 81 3
2002 Jan 25-27 6 90 4
Non-Hispanic blacks
2019 Jun 19-Jul 12 73 25 2
2002 Jan 25-Feb 10 55 37 8

Regionally, Americans residing in the East (35%) provide the highest rate of support for such a policy, while, on the low end, 24% of those in the Midwest agree. In the South, an area that includes most of the 11 "slave states" that seceded from the union, 27% of Americans say the government should make such payments, while 69% say it should not.

Democrats Split on Reparations

While some Democratic presidential candidates have supported exploring reparations or other measures to address U.S. racial disparities, Democrats themselves are divided on the matter of cash-based reparations. Currently, 49% of Democrats say the government should make such payments; 47% say it should not. Still, Democratic support is up from 25% in 2002, so there is momentum for reparations in the party. Support has also increased among independents, from 15% in 2002 to 32% today. Meanwhile, there is minimal support among Republicans, with 5% in favor and 92% opposed. And this hasn't changed since 2002, when 4% were in favor.

Perceptions of Disparities in Treatment

Calls for reparations reflect a desire to address current economic disparities arising from the vestiges of both slavery and Jim Crow laws, including government-sanctioned segregation. The racial gap in support for these efforts may partly stem from more foundational racial disparities in perceptions of current U.S. race relations. For example, while 51% of white Americans say they are satisfied with the way blacks are treated, far fewer blacks, 18%, agree.

Gallup has also found that most blacks (64%) -- versus 28% of whites -- favor the government playing a major role in improving the social and economic positions of minority groups.

Still, there has been some increase in public sympathy toward the difficulty blacks face from discrimination, which may explain the slight increase in support for reparations since 2002. Late last year, Gallup found record-high percentages of Americans saying black Americans are treated less fairly in their community in various situations, such as dealing with the police, while shopping, in stores or on the job. Even so, black Americans' reports of being treated equally in all the situations posed to respondents fell far short of white Americans' perceptions of fair treatment.

Perceptions That Blacks Are Treated Less Fairly Than Whites, Among All Americans
Just your impression, are blacks in your community treated less fairly than whites in the following situations?
2016 2018 Change
% Yes, less fairly % Yes, less fairly pct. pts.
In dealing with the police, such as traffic incidents 45 52 +7
In stores downtown or in the shopping mall 24 32 +8
On the job or at work 24 30 +6
In neighborhood shops 21 28 +7
In restaurants, bars, theaters or other entertainment places 20 28 +8
In getting healthcare from doctors and hospitals 18 24 +6


Last year was the first in nearly two decades of Gallup polling on the topic to see most black Americans describe black-white relations as "bad." As race relations, racial disparities and perceptions of discrimination play a more central role in American national politics, some leaders on the left have proposed revisiting the issue of reparations for Americans who are the descendants of slaves. While there may be serious disagreement between racial groups and even among Democrats on the efficacy of government-initiated cash payments, Republicans are nearly unanimous in their opposition to such a policy. Not only does this present a formidable roadblock to passage of such a bill, but President Donald Trump and his party could use it as a wedge issue to further split the Democratic voter base.

View complete question responses and trends.

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