Views of racism as a major problem increase sharply, especially among Democrats
Since 2015, the increase in perceptions of racism as a big problem has been almost entirely among Democrats, making an already wide partisan gap in these attitudes even larger.
Overall, 58% of Americans say racism is a “big problem in our society,” while 29% say it is “somewhat of a problem.” Just 12% say racism in the U.S. is a small problem or not a problem, according to a new Pew Research Center survey, conducted Aug. 15-21 among 1,893 adults.
Two years ago, 50% of the public viewed racism as a major problem for society, and in 2011 just 28% did so.
Since 2009, the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency, growing numbers of both Democrats and Republicans have seen racism as a big problem. In 2015, 58% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents and 40% of Republicans and Republican leaners said racism was a major problem, up from 32% and 18%, respectively, in 2009.
Since then, however, the share of Democrats expressing this view has climbed 18 percentage points – from 58% to 76% – while the share of Republicans saying this held relatively stable. Today, 37% of Republicans view racism as a big problem; 40% did so in 2015.
The share of those who consider racism a big problem has grown among all racial groups since 2009, but blacks continue to be much more likely than whites to perceive racism as a major problem.
About eight-ten blacks (81%) say racism is a big problem in society, compared with about half of whites (52%). Among both blacks and whites, there have been substantial increases in views of racism as a big problem over the past eight years.
Views of Black Lives Matter
Overall opinions about the Black Lives Matter movement are more deeply divided along partisan lines than racial lines. Eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic leaners (80%) support Black Lives Matter, compared with just 23% of Republicans and Republican leaners.
Blacks are 30 percentage points more likely than whites (82% vs. 52%) to support Black Lives Matter. However, there is substantial gap between races in strength of support: 60% of blacks strongly support the movement, compared with 23% of whites.
Among Democrats, large majorities of both blacks (87%) and whites (84%) say they support Black Lives Matter. Black Democrats are more likely than white Democrats to strongly support the movement, however (68% vs. 45%). (For more on the public’s views of Black Lives Matter and other race-related issues, see “On Views of Race and Inequality, Blacks and Whites Are Worlds Apart,” June 2016.)
Samantha Neal is a research assistant focusing on U.S. politics and policy at Pew Research Center.