With three high-profile cases involving law enforcement and three African-American men over the last year, most Americans now view race relations as the nation’s most pressing issue moving forward.
The poll, conducted by Gallup from April to June of this year, asked Americans, “What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?”
While 18 percent of whites believed the federal government was the biggest issue, 13 percent of African-Americans said race relations were of the most concern. Another 13 percent of blacks said unemployment and jobs should also receive more attention, as well.
The economy was the second most concerning for whites, with 12 percent aligned in that category. Of blacks interviewed, 10 percent expressed similar sentiment; the same percent also felt dissatisfied with the government.
Less than 1 percent of African-Americans chose the federal debt, nearly $20 trillion, as the top concern. Terrorism only registered at 1 percent for African-American concerns, while 5 percent of whites felt terror groups and future attacks were the most concerning. Among whites 5 percent also felt the federal debt and deficit was the nation’s greatest obstacle for the future.
On health care and education, whites and blacks both agreed on the importance of elevating these programs and issues to the forefront. The 6 percent of whites who believed illegal immigration was a main concern was double that of blacks, while 7 percent of blacks felt homelessness and poverty were more important, compared to 4 percent of whites.
“Just as blacks and whites differ in their views of race relations as a top U.S. problem, they also stand apart in their views on the fairness of the criminal justice system, confidence in police and the need for new civil rights laws,” Alyssa Brown, a pollster with Gallup, wrote about the research.
The Washington Post noted that the last time race relations were of this level of concern was in the early 1990s, specifically when members of the Los Angeles Police Department were embroiled in scandal over the beating of Rodney King, an African-American man. Also, the O.J. Simpson trial divided the nation based on race for more than a year, with the victims in that case, Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman, both Caucasians.