Gallup Asks How America Is Doing, Finds Stark Racial Differences

  • submit to reddit

Gallup released an interesting finding today: white Americans’ views of the country’s current standing are decidedly gloomy, but people of color are significantly more optimistic. (The usual caveat that one shouldn’t read too much into the findings of a single poll certainly applies.)

Gallup:

Overall, Americans are as likely to be positive (39 percent) about the current state of the country as they are to be negative (40 percent). However, the gap between whites’ and nonwhites’ views of where the country stands is wider than at any point in recent history, with nonwhites now almost twice as likely as whites to view the nation’s situation positively.

Gallup notes that during George W. Bush’s presidency whites and nonwhites held more or less similar views of the course the country was on, although whites tended to be somewhat more optimistic. The largest gap before Obama’s inauguration was 12 percentage points, which Gallup measured in 2005, shortly after Bush’s re-election.

But that pattern “changed after the 2008 presidential election, when differences between the two racial groups started to get larger.”

Between 2008 and 2010, the views of whites and nonwhites soured, likely reflecting the major economic challenges that erupted in late 2008. However, whites’ views declined much more than nonwhites’, resulting in a six-point gap in 2010 with nonwhites more positive than whites.

More than half of whites (53 percent) were positive about the country’s current trajectory in January 2008 — 10 months before the presidential election. After President Barack Obama’s first year in office, that percentage fell to 35 percent. Four years later, that figure is roughly the same.

Conversely, nonwhites have been increasingly positive about the United States’ standing. While their assessments of current conditions dipped with the rest of the country’s in 2010, nonwhites’ views have increased 16 percentage points since then.

The pollsters offered a possible explanation for the widening perception-gap:

For nonwhites, his election could have signaled an inclusion they had not felt before. Whereas for whites, who largely identify as Republicans, Obama’s big-government views and policies such as the Affordable Care Act, could have played a major role in their pessimism about where the nation is and where it will go.

While the polling question doesn’t mention Obama, the researchers note that historically, different groups’ opinions of how things are going vary significantly depending on which party controlled the White House. But as people of color have increasingly been alienated by the GOP, it’s become harder to untangle differences according to partisanship and race. In today’s poll, 57 percent of nonwhites have a positive view of America’s standing, as do 54 percent of Democrats.

  • submit to reddit

BillMoyers.com encourages conversation and debate around issues, events and ideas related to content on Moyers & Company and the BillMoyers.com website.

  • The editorial staff reserves the right to take down comments it deems inappropriate.
  • Profanity, personal attacks, hate speech, off-topic posts, advertisements and spam will not be tolerated.
  • Do not intentionally make false or misleading statements, impersonate someone else, break the law, or condone or encourage unlawful activity.

If your comments consistently or intentionally make this community a less civil and enjoyable place to be, you and your comments will be excluded from it.

We need your help with this. If you feel a post is not in line with the comment policy, please flag it so that we can take a look. Comments and questions about our policy are welcome. Please send an email to info@moyersmedia.com

Find out more about BillMoyers.com's privacy policy and terms of service.

  • Anonymous

    It’s quite simple, the whites in the South hate having a black president and their opinion of the country is colored by that view. It would be interesting to see the numbers for whites broken out by geography and party affiliation.

  • Anonymous

    I live in the south and it has nothing to do with the presidents skin color to any white I know. It has everything to do with what the politicians of all parties are doing to this country with laws, regulations and taxes that are destroying our rights to life, liberty and property as well as burdening our children and grand children with trillions of dollars in debt. Before you make a moronic comment you should actually attempt to educate yourself and talk to some of the people you are attempting to insult.

  • Anonymous

    You’re right, I shouldn’t over generalize. There are some people in the South who aren’t racists. However, the racists in the republican party are the ones who think the country is in dire straights. On the other hand, I lived in Richmond, VA for many years, and the racism was blatant and strong there. It’s only worse in most of the rest of the South.

  • Anonymous

    If the Republican party is so racist how come all the minorities in the house and Senate who come from majority white districts are Republican?

  • LauraNo

    Blah. Blah. And all these horrible things began when Obama was elected, right? Because that’s what the chart says.

  • Anonymous

    How many minorities in the house and senate? very few compare to the Dem party.

    In the Republican party, all you have to do is scratch their back, and they will scratch you. In fact, the Rep Party is desperate for minority, so they can mask their negative behavior like hand SS to Wall Streets or want to privatize all government sectors, and that’s their purpose.

  • Anonymous

    In the house of the top of my head I can think of my rep Bill Flores and Senator Ted Cruz, both from that dirty red state Texas. True the Dems have more minority reps in congress, but name one that comes from a majority white district.

    Besides that, if you want an intelligent conversation try to come up with some comments that are not leftist bumper stickers.