- 41% in U.S. worry a great deal about race relations
- While down from last year, worry remains much higher than previous decade
- Racial/Ethnic group gap in worry remains as large as ever
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Before a White man targeting Black Americans killed 10 people and wounded three others in a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, late last week, 41% of U.S. adults said they worry "a great deal" about race relations. Another 29% worry "a fair amount," while a combined three in 10 worry "only a little" (17%) or "not at all" (13%).
The percentage of Americans highly concerned in the March 1-18 poll is on par with the elevated level of concern seen in most years since 2017. Yet, it is a bit lower than in March 2021, 10 months after George Floyd's murder, when 48% worried a great deal.
Gallup has monitored Americans' concern about race relations annually since 2001 as part of a March survey that asks respondents to rate their concerns about numerous issues facing the country.
After registering below 25% from 2002 through 2014, the percentage worried a great deal rose to 28% by the next reading, in 2015. This spanned a period of several prominent cases of police officers not being charged or convicted of murder in the deaths of unarmed Black men killed in police encounters.
Public concern about race relations climbed further as more such cases emerged, reaching 42% in 2017. Concern remained at this higher level from 2018 to 2019, before slipping to 31% in 2020. This decline mainly reflected the more positive attitudes of Republicans about the state of the country, just before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Concern about race relations then reached a record-high 48% in 2021, Gallup's first measure of this question taken after Floyd's death.
In this year's update, race relations tied with illegal immigration as a mid-level concern and was just slightly below the average 46% for all 14 issues rated in 2022.
Worry Has Increased Among All Racial/Ethnic Groups
Americans' concern about race relations has increased among all major racial/ethnic groups since 2014, as seen in combined data across four distinct time periods. These groupings not only summarize the data at key points, but also provide the larger sample sizes needed to report the views of Black and Hispanic adults in addition to White adults:
- Period 1: 2001-2014, before the Black Lives Matter movement emerged in response to police violence
- Period 2: 2015-2019, amid national attention to the killing of unarmed Black men and women in encounters with police
- Period 3: March 2020, when concern briefly abated nationwide
- Period 4: 2021-2022, following the killing of George Floyd
The trends show that worry about race relations increased sharply across racial/ethnic groups between 2001-2014 and 2015-2019. Concern then eased among White adults in 2020 while staying fairly flat among Black and Hispanic adults.
Since then, concern about race relations has increased among all racial/ethnic groups -- although more among Black adults, rising 20 percentage points to 74%, than among White adults (up 15 points to 39%) and Hispanic adults (up nine points to 49%).
Two years after George Floyd's murder, Americans' concern about race relations remains in the elevated range seen in recent years and could trend higher in the wake of the recent racially motivated mass killing in Buffalo.
When thinking of race relations, Americans may be focused generally on how different racial groups in the country relate to each other, such as Black and White adults or Asian and White adults. But they could also be factoring in the perceived extent of racism in society and discord over policy prescriptions to address it.
All aspects of race relations have received significant public attention in the years since Black adults like Eric Garner (killed in 2014), Michael Brown (2014), Tamir Rice (2014), Freddie Gray (2015), Philando Castile (2016) and Breonna Taylor (2020) became household names over their deaths at the hands of police. Video footage of the excessive force used against George Floyd in 2020 sparked global protests and discussion that only sharpened the focus.
Concern about race relations measured in Gallup's trend since Floyd's death has increased the most among Black Americans, three-quarters of whom have, on average, worried about race relations a great deal these past two years. That is nearly double the percentage who worried this much two decades ago and also nearly twice the current rate among White Americans. The persistent racial gap in worry could reflect a more fundamental gap in beliefs about the magnitude of discrimination against Black Americans and the solutions needed to redress it.
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