Blacks, Whites Differ in their Perceptions of Levels of Individual, Systemic Racism

Four hands grabbing wrists of other colored arms Image by The Visuals You Need

UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion conducted a survey Aug. 20-25, 2020 of 1,000 American adults asking respondents about race, policing and systemic racism. 

Topline (pdf)

Highlights (pdf) 

Methodology (pdf)

Press Release

Key Findings

  • The survey finds consistent differences in how whites and Blacks experience opportunity, access to education and housing, police fairness, etc. It finds that racially progressive whites often view discrimination as a greater problem than Blacks while racially resentful whites tend to deny the existence of systemic racism. The survey also shows that whites have yet to connect Black disadvantage or structural racism to their own position in society. While many acknowledge discrimination against Blacks, only a few recognize that systemic racism creates privileges for them. 
  • A majority of American adults think that policing in this country is not fair – 51% say that Blacks are treated less fairly than whites in their interactions with police, compared to 41% who say they are treated the same. Another 7% say whites are treated less fairly than Blacks.  Among Black respondents, the perception that Blacks are treated less fairly is higher, at 73%, while nearly half of white respondents, 48%, think Blacks are treated less fairly than whites. 
  • While 15% of respondents said they were treated poorly by police because of their race, nearly equal numbers said they received preferential treatment (12%) because of their race, while the vast majority reported no difference in treatment because of their race. However, Black respondents (38%) were more than five times as likely as white respondents (7%) to say they were treated poorly by the police because of their race.
  • In results on education, market interactions, employment, and housing, the survey finds that many whites recognize systemic disadvantages that Black Americans face, but our survey also shows that this does not mean whites view themselves as benefactors of inequality. Many whites acknowledge discrimination without agreeing that systemic racism contributes to their privilege.