Jaweed Kaleem
Los Angeles Times

A report that asked thousands of people about their views of racism has found the nation to still be deeply divided, with majorities of black and white Americans holding nearly opposite views of the impact of skin color.

About 4 in 10 black Americans doubt the country will ever reach the point where they are treated as equals to whites, according to the Pew Research Center survey released Monday. Yet, nearly 4 in 10 white Americans think that’s already happened. A majority of white people believe blacks are treated the same as them when applying for a mortgage, in the workplace, in restaurants and at the voting booth, the survey found.

In almost every category measured, including police treatment of blacks, the Black Lives Matter movement, politics and the presidency, “there’s a huge polarization between black and white Americans,” said Pew’s Juliana Horowitz.

“You hear that anecdotally, that there is a divide in the country,” and the numbers bear it out, added Horowitz, an associate research director at the Washington organization.

While about 4 in 10 whites surveyed said there was too much of a focus today on race, nearly 6 in 10 blacks said there is too little. Forty-six percent of whites described race relations as generally good, yet 61 percent of blacks said they are generally bad.

White and black Americans also disagreed on the nature of racism. When asked about the biggest problem when it comes to discrimination against black people, just about 1 in 5 whites said it was that racism was built into U.S. laws and institutions. Nearly twice that share of blacks believed the same. Meanwhile, 7 in 10 whites said individual people discriminating against blacks was the biggest issue in racism.

“Blacks are far more likely — at 71 percent — to say they have personally experienced discrimination in their lives,” Horowitz said. “Yet 3 in 10 whites also say they have been treated differently because of their race. On the other hand, when asked if their race has made life harder, 40 percent of blacks said it had while only 5 percent of white people said it had for them.”

Pew researchers said they were spurred to conduct the survey, which asked questions of 3,769 adults between Feb. 29 and May 8, by national controversies over race, policing and violence, such as shootings of unarmed black men that catapulted the Black Lives Matter movement into prominence. Researchers also wanted to ask about President Barack Obama’s effect on race relations before the end of his second term.

The survey also asked Latinos about their views of racism against black Americans and found their views more likely to closely align with the views of black Americans.

The survey had a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points.

Support of Black Lives Matter was high among black Americans, with 65 percent giving their support. At 4 in 10, whites were less supportive. On Obama, the groups also stood apart. Slightly more whites said Obama has made race relations worse (32 percent) than those who said he’s made them better (28 percent). But a little more than half of blacks said he has improved race relations.

While the differences were stark, the report said there were some groups of whites that were closer in their views to blacks. “Whites who are younger than 30 are far less likely than older whites to say there is too much focus on race,” researchers wrote, and also more likely to support Black Lives Matter.