Summary of Findings

A comprehensive new survey of racial attitudes finds that a year after Barack Obama’s election, blacks’ assessments about the state of black progress in America have improved more dramatically than at any time in the last quarter century. The poll finds an upbeat set of black views on a wide range of matters, including race relations, local community satisfaction and expectations for future black progress. But at the same time, some views on race show little change. Most blacks still have doubts about the basic racial fairness of American society.

Some of the most notable trends include:

  • Nearly twice as many blacks now (39%) than in 2007 (20%) say that the “situation of black people in this country” is better than it had been five years earlier
  • A majority of blacks (53%) say that life for blacks in the future will be better than it is now. In 2007, only 44% said things will be better for blacks in the future, while 21% said they will be worse.
  • Most blacks join with most whites in saying that the two racial groups have grown more alike in the past decade, both in their standard of living and their core values.
  • Recession not withstanding, the number of blacks who rate their personal finances as excellent or good is little changed (32% now, 27% in late 2006). During the same period, ratings among whites dropped significantly – to 35% now, from 52% then.
  • Fewer than half (44%) of blacks say they are very satisfied with their community as a place to live, but this figure is higher than it was in 2007, when just 36% of blacks felt this way. Community satisfaction ratings of whites (64%), while higher than those of blacks, have not improved during the past two years.
  • A majority of blacks (54%) say they believe Obama’s barrier-breaking election has improved race relations in America. A third of whites (32%) agree, while 45% say his election has made no difference to race relations.

Despite the upbeat findings from blacks on many fronts, more than eight-in-ten blacks — compared with just more than a third of whites — say the country needs to make more changes to give blacks equal rights with whites. And most remain skeptical that blacks are treated fairly by the police.

View the complete report at pewsocialtrends.org