1. In September, I discussed this question: "How serious a problem do you think racial discrimination against blacks is in this country--a very serious problem, a somewhat serious problem, not too serious, or not at all serious?" The last three times it was asked:
Very Somewhat Not too Not at all
July 2010 18% 44% 28% 10%
June 2015 37% 37% 16% 9%
Sept 2016 42% 37% 13% 6%
My title for that post was "Not sure I believe this": It seemed like an awfully large change, and I wondered if it reflected the context of the questions in the surveys--that is, the questions in 2015 and 2016 might have appeared after questions that got people thinking about discrimination. The 2015 questionnaire is available, but I haven't checked, or if I did I've forgotten.
2. On December 28, I wrote about this "IN YOUR OPINION, HOW WELL DO YOU THINK NEGROES ("blacks" starting in 1978) ARE TREATED IN THIS COMMUNITY--THE SAME AS WHITES ARE, NOT VERY WELL, OR BADLY?" Here are results from the last two times it was asked:
Same Not well Badly
March 2001 64% 24% 3%
Feb 2018 53% 38% 8%
A substantial move towards seeing worse treatment. I noted that the 2018 sample was different from the earlier ones, though.
3. The next day, I wrote about this question: "In general, do you think the criminal justice system in the United States is biased in favor of blacks, or is it biased against blacks, or does it generally give blacks fair treatment?" Results from the most recent surveys:
Favor Against Fair
Aug 2013 5% 35% 43%
July 2015 5% 49% 40%
Sept 2017 8% 47% 36%
A big change between 2013 and 2015--note that the percent of "don't knows" was quite a bit lower in 2015 than it had been.
When Andrew sent his inquiry, I looked and found a number of questions of the form "How much discrimination do you think there is against African Americans in our society today--a lot, some, only a little, or none at all?" (there are some slight differences in question wording, but the answer categories are always the same). The recent examples:
Lot Some Little None
Aug 2013 19% 49% 22% 7%
June 2014 17% 49% 27% 5%
Nov 2014 21% 47% 24% 8%
May 2015 41% 41% 14% 3%
Aug 2015 36% 40% 16% 6%
*Nov 2016 41% 35% 17% 6%
*Feb 2016 39% 43% 14% 5%
*Mar 2019 46% 34% 14% 5%
The ones marked with an asterisk asked about "blacks," which could make a difference.
You could reasonably raise doubts about any of these results, but the overall pattern is clear: there was a substantial change in opinions between 2014 and 2015. In fact, you could be more precise and say the middle of 2015.
The shooting of Michael Brown occurred in August 2014, and lead to protests which got a lot of media coverage. There was no video in that case, and people had different interpretations. On Nov 26, 2014, a surveillance video of the shooting of Tamir Rice was released, which also got a lot of media coverage and was widely shared on social media. Since then, there have been many other videos of police shootings. More recently there have been videos of black people doing ordinary things and being confronted or having the police called on them. I think that these have made a difference--most news stories, even ones that get a lot of media coverage, don't change many opinions because they are complicated and can be interpreted in many different ways. But a video of an everyday situation leaves less room for interpretation (although there is always some) and there was not just one, but a series of them.
In conclusion, I think that there is strong evidence that opinions have changed: people see more discrimination against blacks than they did just a few years ago. That raises a few other questions, which I will discuss in my next post.
[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]