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Partisanship Drives Latest Shift in Race Relations Attitudes

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Majority hopeful that movement will have a positive impact

West Long Branch, NJ – Republicans have turned negative while non-Republicans have held firm in their support of the movement sparked by the death of George Floyd and other incidents involving racial justice. The Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll finds that most Americans are hopeful about the future of race relations even though most say President Donald Trump has made the current situation worse. The public is divided about the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement but opinion is more positive than it was four years ago. The poll also finds that most people view “Defund the Police” more as a call to action than a literal policy position.

Just over half of the public feels that race relations in the U.S. will improve (21% a lot and 31% a little) as a result of the movement that has engulfed the country since late May. Just 18% say race relations will get worse and 26% say nothing will really change. Republicans and independents who lean Republican (33%) are much less likely than other Americans – whether they are white (67%), Black (64%), or from another racial or ethnic group (64%) – to believe that race relations will improve because of recent events. Most Americans are hopeful about the future of race relations, although only 26% say they are very hopeful while 56% are somewhat hopeful. A majority (55%) say the current movement will have a long-term impact on race relations, 32% say it will have a short-term impact and 9% say it will have no impact.

Currently, 67% of the public says racial and ethnic discrimination in the U.S. is a big problem while just 17% say it is not a problem at all. Another 14% say discrimination is a problem but not a big one. This marks a slight shift in opinion from the beginning of June, when 76% said discrimination was a big problem and only 7% said it was not a problem at all.

The shift in public opinion on racial discrimination over the past month appears to be driven almost entirely by partisanship. Among self-identified Republicans and independents who lean toward the Republican Party, 40% say discrimination is a big problem. This represents a 14 point drop from a few weeks ago (54%) as well as from 2016 (55%) and is more in line with this group’s opinion in early 2015 (43%). The poll also finds that 35% of Republicans say racial discrimination is not a problem, which is higher than all prior Monmouth polls on this question (15% last month, 17% in 2016, and 26% in 2015).

RACIAL AND ETHNIC DISCRIMINATION TRENDS:
Impact of Partisanship and Race
 
REPUBLICANS*
NON-REPUBLICANS
 TOTALWhiteBlackOther
BIG PROBLEM:     
Late June 20206740869285
Early June 20207654899391
July 20166855739078
Jan. 20155143526962
      
NOT A PROBLEM:     
Late June 202017354310
Early June 2020715303
July 20161017716
Jan. 201518261498
* Includes independents who lean to the GOP    
Source:  Monmouth University Poll

Opinion on the prevalence of racial discrimination among non-Republicans, though, has not really moved in the past month. About 9 in 10 non-Republicans say that this is a big problem regardless of their race – 92% Black, 86% white, and 85% other racial and ethnic minority groups. These results are basically unchanged from early June – 93% Black, 89% white, and 91% other racial groups.

“The events of late May sparked a reckoning with racial discrimination for many non-Republicans, but Republican opinion swung in the opposite direction since the protests started. It almost seems that even acknowledging the existence of racial inequity can be seen as disloyalty to the party or the president,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. Note: Interviewing for Monmouth’s early June poll was nearly complete when President Trump made his first public appearance after the protests began, where he stood in front of a church near the White House. Also, the current poll was conducted before the president’s July 4th speeches this past weekend.

The Black Lives Matter (“BLM”) movement has taken center stage in the current debate. Currently, 71% of Americans agree and just 26% disagree that BLM has brought attention to real racial disparities in America. Four years ago, a smaller majority of 58% agreed with this view while 35% disagreed. Still, more people say that BLM has made racial issues worse (38%) rather than better (26%), although this gap has narrowed since 2016 when it stood at 48% worse to 10% better. Another 32% say BLM has not really impacted racial issues either way (36% in 2016).

Compared to four years ago, white non-Republicans are more likely to agree that BLM has brought attention to racial disparities (from 65% to 87%) and that the movement has contributed to positive change (from 16% to 38%). The results are similar for non-Republicans in other racial groups (from 65% to 89% that BLM has brought attention and from 8% to 35% that it has improved racial issues). There has been little change among Black non-Republicans in terms of agreement that the BLM movement has brought attention to racial disparities (87% in July 2016 and 89% currently), although more of this group now say BLM has improved racial issues (going from 17% to 42%).

There have been much smaller shifts among Republicans and Republican leaners. Currently 48% of GOP identifiers agree and 48% disagree that BLM has brought attention to real racial disparities. This opinion stood at 40% to 52% in 2016. Also, 10% of Republicans currently say BLM has made racial issues better and 67% say the movement has made them worse. This opinion stood at 4% to 73% in 2016.

Three in ten (30%) Americans feel that the actions taken during the recent protests about police and the deaths of Black civilians were fully justified. This is up from 17% who said they were fully justified in early June, when the emerging protests involved the burning of a police precinct, which was mentioned in the early June question wording. Another 35% say the protestors actions’ were partially justified (37% in early June) and 29% say they were not at all justified (38% in early June). Interestingly though, somewhat fewer Americans now say that the anger that led to these protests was fully justified (46%, compared to 57% last month), while slightly more say this anger was either partially (28%, compared to 21%) or not at all (23%, compared to 18%) justified.

On the actions taken by the protestors, some Republicans and Republican leaners have shifted over the past month from saying they were not justified (from 61% to 48%) to partially justified (26% to 35%). However, only 9% of this group say these actions were fully justified (similar to 6% last month). The main shift in overall approval of the protestors’ actions has come from non-Republicans, including those who are white (from 25% fully justified to 46%), Black (from 30% to 45%), and from other racial groups (from 21% to 44%).

Republicans are much less likely to say that the underlying anger of these protestors is fully justified than they were a month ago (from 40% in early June to 18% now), whereas this opinion has not shifted by much among non-Republicans – including those who are white (71% in both polls), Black (from 74% to 68%), and other racial groups (65% to 60%). Among Republicans, 40% now say protestors’ anger is partially justified (up from 25%) and 39% say it is not at all justified (up from 31%).

Most Americans (62%) say that Trump’s handling of the protests has made the situation worse.  This opinion is held by more than 8 in 10 non-Republicans, including 85% who are white, 84% who are Black, and 81% who are of another racial minority group. Only 20% of Americans say that Trump has made the situation better. Republicans and GOP leaners stand alone in their feeling that the president has made the situation better (40%) rather than worse (32%).

Just 18% of the public says that Americans are united and in agreement about the nation’s most important values. Fully 78% say we are greatly divided. Since Monmouth started asking this question in 2016, the number who said we are united had ranged between 20% and 27% until the current poll while those saying we are divided ranged between 68% and 77%. Two-thirds (66%) of the public says the country has become more divided since President Trump took office, compared to 62% in November 2018, 63% in December 2017, and 52% in March 2017. Just 13% in the current poll say the nation has become more united under Trump, which has been fairly steady (between 9% and 11% in prior polls). The “no change” percentage has declined significantly, though, from 34% when Trump first took office to 26% at the end of 2017 and 25% a year later, to 17% now. 

“This is just one more sign that the president’s approach to governing increasingly pushes Americans to take sides. There doesn’t seem to be much of an opportunity to find a middle ground anymore,” said Murray.

Recent protests have also involved calls to “Defund the Police.”  Most Americans (77%) believe those who use that phrase really just want to change the way police departments operate. Only 18% believe that people who use this phrase actually want to get rid of police departments. The poll also finds about half (51%) the public believes that police officers are no more or less likely to exhibit racism compared to other groups in the country. Another 28% say there is more racism among the police and 14% say there is less compared to other groups. These results are similar to a December 2014 poll (56% same amount, 25% more, 12% less).

“Most Americans see ‘Defund the Police’ as more of a general statement of purpose rather than an actual policy demand, at least for now,” said Murray.

For context, 42 percent of adults in the current Monmouth University Poll identify with or lean toward the Republican Party. This includes about half of white Americans, 1 in 10 who are Black, 3 in 10 who are Hispanic, and 4 in 10 who are Asian or of another ethnic group. In other words, about three-quarters of all GOP identifiers are non-Hispanic white. By contrast, a little over half of non-Republicans are white, while just under 1 in 5 are Black and just under 1 in 5 are Hispanic.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from June 26 to 30, 2020 with 867 adults in the United States.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS     

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

[Q1-21 previously released.]

22. Which statement comes closer to your view: Americans are united and in agreement about the most important values OR Americans are greatly divided when it comes to the most important values? [CHOICES WERE ROTATED]

   TREND:

Late June
2020
Sept.
2019
Nov.
2018
Dec.
2017
March
2017
Aug.
2016*
Americans are united18%27%20%23%22%27%
Americans are greatly divided78%68%77%72%75%70%
(VOL) Don’t know4%5%4%5%4%4%
 (n)(867)(1,161)(802)(806)(801)(803)

            * Registered voters

23. Has the country become more united, more divided, or not really changed since President Trump took office?

   TREND:Late June
2020
Nov.
2018
Dec.
2017
March
2017
More united13%11%9%11%
More divided66%62%63%52%
Not really changed17%25%26%34%
(VOL) Don’t know4%3%2%3%
 (n)(867)(802)(806)(801)

24. Do you think that racial and ethnic discrimination in the United States is a problem or not a problem? [If PROBLEM: Is it a big problem or a small problem?]

   TREND:Late June
2020
Early June
2020
July
2016*
Jan.
2015
Yes, big problem67%76%68%51%
Yes, small problem10%12%12%21%
Yes, but not sure if big or small4%4%7%9%
No, not a problem17%7%10%18%
(VOL) Don’t know1%0%3%1%
(n)(867)(759)(805)(1,003)

        *Registered voters

25. Do you agree or disagree that the Black Lives Matters movement has brought attention to real racial disparities in American society?

   TREND:Late June
2020
July
2016*
Agree71%58%
Disagree26%35%
(VOL) Don’t know3%8%
    (n)(867)(805)

        *Registered voters

26. Has the Black Lives Matters movement made racial issues in America better or worse, or has it not really changed things either way?

   TREND:Late June
2020
July
2016*
Better26%10%
Worse38%48%
Not really changed things32%36%
(VOL) Don’t know5%6%
   (n)(867)(805)

        *Registered voters

27. As you know, there have been recent protests about incidents involving police and the deaths of Black civilians. Given what happened, do you think the actions of the protestors were fully justified, partially justified, or not at all justified?

   TREND:Late June
2020
Early June
2020
Fully justified30%17%
Partially justified35%37%
Not at all justified29%38%
(VOL) Depends on which protests4%4%
(VOL) Don’t know2%4%
   (n)(867)(759)

28. Regardless of the actual actions taken, do you think the anger that led to these protests was fully justified, partially justified, or not at all justified?

   TREND:Late June
2020
Early June
2020
Fully justified46%57%
Partially justified28%21%
Not at all justified23%18%
(VOL) Depends on which protests1%1%
(VOL) Don’t know2%3%
   (n)(867)(759)

29. Do you think there is more racism, less racism, or about the same amount of racism among police officers than among other groups in society?

   TREND:Late June
2020
Dec.
2014
More racism among police28%25%
Less racism among police14%12%
Same amount of racism51%56%
(VOL) Don’t know7%8%
   (n)(867)(1,008)

30. Has Donald Trump’s handling of the protests made the current situation better or made it worse?

 Late June
2020
Better20%
Worse62%
(VOL) Neither, no impact11%
(VOL) Don’t know7%
   (n)(867)

31. Do you think the movement sparked by these recent events will have a long-term impact on race relations in the United States, a short-term impact, or no impact at all?

 Late June
2020
Long-term impact55%
Short-term impact32%
No impact at all9%
(VOL) Don’t know4%
   (n)(867)

32. Do you think race relations in the United States will improve, get worse, or not really change as a result of the current movement? [Will they improve/get worse by a lot or just a little?]

 Late June
2020
Improve by a lot21%
Improve by a little31%
Get worse by a lot11%
Get worse by a little7%
Not really change26%
(VOL) Don’t know4%
   (n)(867)

33. When thinking about the future of race relations in America, do you feel very hopeful, somewhat hopeful, not too hopeful, or not at all hopeful?

 Late June
2020
Very hopeful26%
Somewhat hopeful56%
Not too hopeful10%
Not at all hopeful6%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
   (n)(867)

34. When you hear people say they want to “Defund the Police” – do you think most of them really want to get rid of police departments or do you think most of them just want to change the way police departments operate?

 Late June
2020
Get rid of police18%
Change the way police operate77%
(VOL) Don’t know5%
   (n)(867)

35. Has a family member, friend or coworker expressed an opinion about these recent incidents that really upset you?  [If NEEDED: Incidents involving police and the deaths of Black civilians as well as the protests.]

   TREND:Late June
2020
Dec.
2014*
Yes33%19%
No66%81%
(VOL) Don’t know1%0%
   (n)(867)(1,008)

* Dec. 2014 question wording did not include “family member.”

[Question 35A was asked of those who said “YES” to Q35; n=284, moe=+/-5.8%.]

35A. Was this person the same race as you or a different race?

   TREND:Late June
2020
Dec.
2014
Same race66%65%
Different race24%22%
(VOL) Both same and different races 9%12%
(VOL) Don’t know0%1%
   (n)(284)(173)

[Question 35B was asked of those who said “YES” to Q35; n=284, moe=+/-5.8%.]

35B. Was this opinion expressed in person or on social media?

   TREND:Late June
2020
Dec.
2014
In person58%49%
Social media21%25%
(VOL) Both20%25%
(VOL) Neither/other2%0%
(VOL) Don’t know0%0%
   (n)(284)(173)

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from June 26 to 30, 2020 with a national random sample of 867 adults age 18 and older. This includes 294 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 573 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English. Telephone numbers were selected through random digit dialing and landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information (ACS 2018 one-year survey). Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and Dynata (RDD sample). For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)
Self-Reported
28% Republican
41% Independent
31% Democrat
 
48% Male
52% Female
 
30% 18-34
33% 35-54
37% 55+
 
63% White
12% Black
16% Hispanic
  8% Asian/Other
 
69% No degree
31% 4 year degree
  

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and crosstabs by key demographic groups.

Download this Poll Report with crosstabs