On the 50th anniversary of Selma's Bloody Sunday, there remain sharp differences in how race is perceived in America depending on if you're white or not.
As Barack Obama prepares to mark the march's anniversary in Selma, Alabama, 39% of Americans say relations between blacks and whites have worsened since he took office, including 45% of whites and 26% of blacks. Just 15% of Americans say race relations have improved under Obama, while 45% say they have stayed about the same.
When it comes to voting rights and criminal justice, about half of Americans think more work is needed. The poll finds 51% believe the Voting Rights Act, signed into law the summer after the march, remains necessary to make sure that blacks are allowed to vote, while 47% say it's no longer needed. Fifty percent say the nation's criminal justice system favors whites over blacks, while 42% think it treats both equally.
On employment, most see progress, with 72% saying blacks in their community have as good a chance as whites at getting jobs for which they are qualified, 28% say they do not.
But across all these measures, the overall results mask sharp divides between blacks and whites on perceptions of racial disparity in the U.S. While 76% of blacks say the Voting Rights Act is necessary in present day to ensure that blacks are able to vote, just 48% of whites agree. Likewise, 54% of African Americans say blacks do not have as good a chance as whites to get jobs for which they are qualified, just 19% of whites agree.
And blacks and whites are broadly divided in their assessment of the nation's criminal justice system. Three-quarters of African Americans (76%) say the system favors whites, compared with 42% of whites who hold that same opinion. The poll was completed before the Department of Justice released a report finding widespread racial discrimination by the police department in Ferguson, Missouri, where the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black, by a white police officer sparked months of protests.
Oh and two-thirds of Republicans say race relations are worse under President Obama. It's very easy to blame him, rather than ask yourself why that is. I'm sure the Ferguson report will be dismissed the same way. "Well, it's just one city with one bad police department. That kind of thing doesn't happen where we live, and it's a waste of time and money looking for evidence otherwise."
The 42% of people who believe that blacks and whites are treated the same in the criminal justice system aren't delusional, frankly. But then again, that's nothing new either.