Written By: Dave Ress 5/8/15
There’s a growing sense that the nation needs to do more to ensure equal rights for African-Americans, a set of surprising new nationwide polls suggest.
And it’s a trend that activists and politicians on the Peninsula see as well.
A year after a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., shot dead an unarmed black teenager, a majority of Americans – nearly six of 10 Americans – now feels the nation needs to do more, new polls on racial attitudes by the Pew Research Center and the Washington Post report.
That’s up from 46 percent a year ago.
“That’s what I’ve been seeing,” said Gaylene Kanoyton, president of the Hampton branch of the NAACP. “Not everyone agrees with us, but more people do.”
But people on the Peninsula, black and white, have long tended to be more concerned than many others about equal rights, Mayor McKinley Price.
“There’s been a lot of work by a lot of organizations over the years talking about race and poverty and equity,” Price said. “In Newport News, people want to be left alone, they want to be safe and they want everyone to be treated equally.”
Those conversations and those shared concerns are key reasons why residents are quietly awaiting results of the investigation of the fatal shooting of Kawanza Beaty by a Newport News police officer last month, Price believes.
The Peninsula hasn’t reacted to Beaty’s death with the kind of anger seen in Ferguson or in Baltimore after the death of a man while in police custody because people are more confident that the whole community is concerned about fairness and equity, he added.
The national polls show whites generally are starting to share the longer-held concerns about fairness and the need to do more to ensure equal rights that Price believes people in Newport News have long held.
The Pew and Post polls show a majority of whites – 53 percent – now believe there’s still work to be done to ensure fair treatment for African-Americans.
A year ago, only 39 percent of whites felt that way, both polls report.
Far more African-Americans – roughly nine out of 10 – say more needs to be done to ensure equal rights, the polls report.
The Pew poll also reported that half of all Americans say racism is a big problem. That’s a big jump up from the 26 percent to 33 percent that a series of other polls from 2009 to 2011 had reported, but is in line with polls from the mid-1990s.
A third poll, by the Gallup group, showed a sharp drop in the percentages of Americans who are satisfied with the way blacks are treated, to 49 percent now from 62 percent a year ago. The percentage of whites who say they are satisfied with the way blacks are treated dropped to 53 percent from 67 percent. The percentage of blacks who are satisfied fell to 33 percent from 47 percent.
The Pew results may be picking up reaction to a series of violent incidents in recent months, including the gunning down of nine African-Americans at a South Carolina church service by a white supremacist as well as the fatal shooting of an unarmed man by a South Carolina police officer making a traffic stop, said Quentin Kidd, director of Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center for Public Policy.
But a March survey by student pollsters at Christopher Newport University conducted a month before the South Carolina police shooting already showed a majority of Virginians – 51 percent — felt the nation needs to continue making changes to give African-Americans equal rights.
The shift in attitude the Pew poll found cut across partisan lines; in fact, the swing was larger among conservative Republicans than any other group.
But the 16 percentage point increase in the proportion of conservative Republicans saying there’s more work to be done to ensure fair treatment still left a majority of 56 percent who felt America has done enough.
And even more of the “staunch conservatives” the CNU student pollsters identified feel the nation has done enough. Only 17 percent of that group of mainly Tea Party sympathizers felt the nation needs to do more to ensure equal rights for blacks.
And 70 percent of the libertarians the CNU students identified say the nation has done enough to ensure equal rights.
Kidd said it’s hard to say how events since March, when the students conducted their poll, might shift those views. The CNU poll focused on ideology rather than on party affiliation, and it can be tougher to shift the opinions of people with strong beliefs than it is to convince people who simply say they support one political party, he said.
One sign that recent events sparked the shift in attitude is reflected in the Pew poll’s finding that most Americans, including more than half of whites and more than three-quarters of blacks, feel South Carolina made the right decision to take down the Confederate flag displayed on the statehouse grounds after the mass shooting at the Charleston church.
The Pew poll sampled 2,002 people, and has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. The Post surveyed 1,010 and estimated its margin of error at plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, while Gallup sampled 2,296 and said its margin of error was plus or minus 5 percentage points. The CNU poll sampled 1,026 Virginians with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.
Source: Daily Press http://www.dailypress.com/news/politics/dp-nws-race-poll-20150805-story.html