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Pew survey on race shows a nation alarmingly divided

Among Democrats, 73 percent favored doing more to overcome racism. Among Republicans, 21 percent favored some level of effort to overcome racial bias.

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REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

It can be dangerous, bordering on wrong, to make assumptions about the views of others, and that definitely includes views on race. But data, even poll data, which is always accompanied by a margin for error, is one of our best tools for understanding the views of large groups of our fellow Americans.

In July, the Pew Research Center surveyed a large (10,221) sample on racial attitudes. The results, when broken down by political party and race, portrays a country that is alarmingly (if, perhaps not surprisingly) divided. I’ll pass along a few of the poll results, then link you to the full Pew writeup.

For example, in the total sample, when asked whether more needs to be done to overcome the legacy of racism, a slight majority of 51 percent of respondents said “little or nothing more needs to be done.”

The 49 percent who favor doing more about racial equality broke down almost evenly between 25 percent who agreed with the statement that “because they are fundamentally biased against some racial and ethnic groups, most U.S. laws and institutions need to be completely rebuilt,” and 24 percent who rejected “completely rebuilt” and agreed with the statement that “while there are many inequities in U.S. laws and institutions, necessary changes can be made by working within current systems.”

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The next level of analysis was to break those responses down by political party and by race.

Among Black Americans, 77 percent favor doing a lot more to overcome racial bias, compared to 23 percent who said little or nothing needs to be done.

But by 58-42 percent, a solid majority of white Americans favored “doing little or nothing” to ensure legal rights for all Americans regardless of their race.”

On that question, as on many others in the survey, a majority of Latino and Asian Americans agreed that more needs to be done, but in lower numbers than the 77 percent of Blacks who gave that answer.

The stark but not particularly surprising partisan breakdown went like this:

Among Democrats, 73 percent favored doing more to overcome racism (40 percent favored “fundamental change”/33 percent believed necessary change could be made working with existing systems).

Among Republicans just 7 percent endorsed “fundamental” change, 14 percent more favored making needed, but not “fundamental” change, for a total of 21 percent of Republicans who favored some level of effort to overcome racial bias.

The full results of the Pew poll can be accessed via this link.