- 59% believe Black civil rights have improved, lowest to date
- 89% saw improvement in 2011
- Majority of U.S. adults now call for new civil rights laws
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Fifty-nine percent of U.S. adults believe that civil rights for Black Americans have improved in their lifetime, the bleakest assessment Gallup has measured to date. Americans' views of civil rights progress began to sour in 2015 after several cases involving Black men being killed by White police officers gained national attention. The trend accelerated this year after the deaths of George Floyd and others.
Line graph. Fifty nine percent of Americans say civil rights for Black adults have improved in their lifetimes. This is down from percentages above 80% between 1995 and 2013, and percentages near 75% in 2015 and 2016.
Gallup first asked about Black civil rights in 1995, at which time 83% believed things had improved. By 2011, during Barack Obama's first term as president, a high of 89% held this view, including 50% who believed civil rights for Black Americans had "greatly improved."
Less than a decade later, 19% of Americans believe civil rights have greatly improved for Black adults, 40% say they have somewhat improved, 22% believe they have stayed the same, and 18% say they have worsened.
These results are based on a June 8-July 24 Gallup poll of more than 1,200 U.S. adults, including an oversample of 300 Black Americans. The survey was conducted amid ongoing protests for racial justice after Floyd's death, but before the recent police shooting that left Jacob Blake paralyzed in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Both White and Black Americans are less likely now than in the past to think that civil rights have improved. Currently, 65% of White adults and 52% of Black adults hold this view, down from 77% and 69%, respectively, in 2016.
Line graph. Sixty-five percent of White Americans and 52% of Black Americans say civil rights for Black adults have improved in their lifetimes. Both percentages are down from 77% and 69% respectively in 2016, and higher percentages in the past.
The poll also finds younger and older Americans diverging in their opinions on progress for Black civil rights. Whereas 74% of those aged 65 and older think civil rights for Black Americans have improved, 42% of adults under age 30 agree. Fifty-nine percent of adults between the ages of 30 and 64 think civil rights have improved.
Record High See New Civil Rights as Necessary
In 1993, leading up to the 30th anniversary of the March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Gallup asked Americans whether new civil rights laws were needed to reduce discrimination against Black Americans. At that time, 38% said new laws were needed.
Now, for the first time in the nearly 30-year trend, a majority of Americans (61%) hold this view. The current figure is up from 40% five years ago and 21% in 2011.
Majorities of Black Americans have consistently said new civil rights laws are needed, but the 82% who say so now is the highest measured for the group to date. White Americans have always been less inclined to think new civil rights laws are needed, but now a majority of 53% do.
Line graph. Sixty one percent of US adults say new civil rights laws are needed to reduce discrimination against Black Americans. Prior to this year the percentage had not been higher than 40% and was as low as 21% in 2011. Black Americans have been consistently more likely than White Americans to view new civil rights laws as needed.
Majorities in all age groups believe new civil rights laws are needed, including 68% of adults aged 18 to 29, 66% of those aged 30 to 49, 55% of those aged 50 to 64, and 51% of those aged 65 and older.
Several high-profile incidents between Black Americans and the police have reignited the debate about the treatment of Black adults in the U.S. Americans are far less likely now than a few years ago to say civil rights for Black Americans have improved, and are much more likely to think new civil rights laws are needed to reduce discrimination.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives recently passed a bill to address the issue of police misconduct and racial discrimination. Senate Republicans drafted their own version of a police reform bill, but it did not advance to a vote because of Democratic opposition. Progress toward legislation has thus stalled over disagreements between the two sides, and it is unclear if Congress will renew its efforts to pass a bill this year.
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