Sixty-nine percent of Americans say race relations are generally bad, one of the highest levels of discord since the 1992 riots in Los Angeles during the Rodney King case, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
The poll, conducted from Friday (July 8), the day after the killing of five Dallas police officers, until Tuesday, found that six in 10 Americans say race relations were growing worse, up from 38 per cent a year ago.
Racial discontent is at its highest point in the Obama presidency and at the same level after the riots touched off by the 1992 acquittal of Los Angeles police officers charged in King’s beating.
Relations between black Americans and the police have become so brittle that more than half of black people say they were not surprised by the attack that killed five police officers and wounded nine others in Dallas last week. Nearly half of white Americans say that they, too, were unsurprised by the episode, the survey found.
Despite President Barack Obama’s insistence at a memorial service for the fallen officers that the races in the United States are “not as divided as we seem”, the poll found that black and white Americans hold starkly different views on race, particularly regarding the treatment of African-Americans by the police.
Asked whether the police in most communities are more likely to use deadly force against a black person than a white person, three-quarters of African-Americans answered yes, and only about half as many white people agree. Fifty-six per cent of whites said that the race of the suspect made no difference in the use of force; only 18 per cent of black Americans said so.
When asked to rate the job their local police department was doing, four in five whites said excellent or good; a majority of blacks answered fair or poor.
The nationwide Times/CBS News Poll was conducted via mobile phones and landlines with 1,600 adults, including 171 black respondents and 1,207 whites. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points for all adults, three points for whites and nine points for blacks. THE NEW YORK TIMES