Fewer than half of all Americans say the United States has made substantial progress in treating all races equally, according to a new poll released by the Pew Research Center Thursday. The results were announced days before the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic "I Have A Dream" speech on the National Mall.
One of the key questions asked in the Pew survey was, "As you may know, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his 'I Have a Dream Speech' at a civil rights march in Washington almost 50 years ago. Overall, how much progress toward Martin Luther King's dream of racial equality do you think the U.S. has made over the last 50 years?"
Discussing the answers for our Newscast unit, NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports:
"The new poll shows clear racial disparities in its respondents: 48 percent of white respondents and 43 percent of Hispanics said a lot of progress toward equality had been achieved in the past 50 years, while only 32 percent of blacks who were polled did.
"Even more stark were the answers to Pew's question about how much more needs to be done before full racial equality is achieved: 44 percent of whites and 48 percent of Hispanics said much more needs to be done, compared to 79 percent of black respondents.
The survey also found that blacks "are also more likely to say that blacks are treated less fairly than whites by police, the courts, public schools and other key community institutions," according to the Pew report.
In one of the survey's brighter spots, it suggests a fairly high degree of comfort in how people view those of different races, with a majority of Hispanics, blacks, and whites saying they get along with other groups.
For instance, the report found that "large majorities of blacks (73 percent) and whites (81 percent) say the two races generally get along either 'very well' or 'pretty well.'"
In terms of economic standing, the Pew Center's analysis of government income data found that in the 50 years since King's speech, the income gap between blacks and whites widened, and "rates of home ownership and poverty have remained largely the same," Karen reports.
The national survey of 2,231 adults included 376 blacks and 218 Hispanics, the Pew Center says. It was conducted by telephone from Aug. 1-11.
In a separate report issued earlier this month, a report by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that white Americans lagged behind blacks and Hispanics in terms of being optimistic about their chances in the current economy.
The research center's analysis "found just 46 percent of whites say their family has a good chance of improving their living standard given the way things are in America, the lowest level in surveys conducted since 1987," the AP reported. "In contrast, 71 percent of blacks and 73 percent of Hispanics express optimism of an improved life — the biggest gap with whites since the survey began asking."