The FINANCIAL — Sixty-four percent of Americans believe blacks have the same chance as whites in their local community to get a job for which they are qualified, but the percentage holding that view has declined in recent years and is the lowest since 1995.
The only time Americans were less optimistic about blacks’ ability to secure jobs was in the 1960s civil rights era, when roughly four in 10 thought blacks and whites had equal job opportunities, according to Gallup.
Americans’ beliefs that blacks enjoy equality of opportunity relative to housing and education have also declined. Currently, 70% say blacks have the same chance as whites to get any housing they can afford, the lowest since 1989 and down from a peak of 83% in 1997.
The 71% of Americans who believe black children have the same chance as whites of obtaining a good education is the lowest in Gallup’s trend, including in 1962, less than a decade after the Supreme Court ruling desegregating public schools.
The results are based on the June 7-July 1 Gallup Minority Rights and Relations poll, conducted just before recent racial incidents in Minneapolis, Baton Rouge and Dallas.
Most Americans believe blacks have the same opportunities as whites in all three areas of life assessed in the new poll — jobs, housing and education — but fewer hold that view than at any point in at least the last two decades. One reason for the declines could be the attention given to racial and economic inequality by the candidates in this year’s presidential campaign. Racial incidents involving police in recent years, and the resulting Black Lives Matter movement, could also be a factor, though declines in perceptions of black housing and educational opportunities were mostly evident this year.
Blacks Less Confident Than Whites About Equal Opportunity
Whites and blacks have different perceptions of equality of opportunity for members of racial groups. Whereas roughly seven in 10 whites believe that blacks and whites have the same opportunities to get a job, a good education and any housing they can afford, far fewer blacks agree. Slightly less than half of blacks believe that blacks and whites have the same chance to get a good education (49%) and to get any housing they can afford (46%). Even fewer blacks, 32%, say blacks and whites have equal job opportunities.
Compared with 1999 — the first year Gallup asked all three questions in a poll with a large oversample of blacks — both blacks and whites are now less optimistic about black opportunities in all three areas and by similar margins. Thus, while blacks and whites continue to hold widely differing views on black opportunities in the U.S., both groups are less positive than in the past about the situation for blacks.
Americans as a whole largely believe blacks and whites have equal opportunities in the workforce, in school and in finding a home, as opposed to believing blacks are disadvantaged in those areas. But fewer Americans — including both blacks and whites — believe equality of opportunity exists in these realms today than have done so in the previous 20 years or more. And more than 50 years after the civil rights movement began, blacks themselves are divided as to whether they have equal opportunities.
Racially charged incidents involving police, the resulting Black Lives Matter movement, and the Flint, Michigan, water crisis have all contributed to a robust national discussion about the challenges blacks face in society. And these concerns are likely magnified in the midst of a presidential campaign as the candidates react to the events and attempt to offer solutions to address the issues they raise. Barack Obama’s election as the nation’s first black president was a landmark achievement for blacks, but seven years into his presidency, the issues of race remain complex and are beyond what political leadership alone can change.