Almost eight years after President Barack Obama became the first black commander-in-chief, 88% of African Americans tell researchers at the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, that the country hasn't made enough progress on racial equality. And about 43% of blacks said they don't believe that real progress will ever happen.
Released Monday, the Pew study captured stark differences in how blacks and whites see racial issues. Whites were far more optimistic about the future of race relations — only 11% of whites surveyed said racial parity would never become a reality. But 53% of whites told Pew that the country needed to do more to help black Americans achieve equality.
"Blacks, far more than whites, say black people are treated unfairly across different realms of life, from dealing with the police to applying for a loan or mortgage," Pew wrote in an analysis of the results.
Researchers conducted the survey between Feb. 29 and May 8 among 3,769 White, black and Hispanic adults.
Here are other key findings:
Half of blacks said Obama had improved race relations.
The research center found that 51% of black survey respondents believe Obama has made progress on this front. An additional 34% said the president tried and failed to make progress. Just 5% of blacks said the first black commander-in-chief made race relations worse.
But only 28% of whites said Obama had made improvements over his two terms. Another 24% credited the president with trying but said he had failed. However, 32% of whites said Obama made race relations worse.
Twice as many whites (57%) as blacks said it's "more important to focus on what different racial and ethnic groups have in common" rather than "what makes each group unique."
Blacks were more evenly split, with 45% favoring commonalities and 44% favoring differences.
Majorities of blacks and whites both said racial discrimination against blacks stems from "individual prejudice" rather than institutionalized racism. But whites are more likely to lean toward individual prejudice, as a cause of discrimination.
Seventy percent of whites cited individual prejudice as a root cause of discrimination, while 19% of whites said discrimination is a systemic problem. That's a wider margin than blacks, who were near evenly divided on the causes of discrimination. The idea behind institutionalized racism is that a collection of forces, both societal and governmental, result in discrimination against blacks while blaming individual prejudice suggests the problem is not systemic.
Throughout his presidency, Obama has acknowledged the struggles of black Americans. He and his surrogates have cited his health care reform law, his criminal justice reforms and his leadership in the economic recovery as beneficial to blacks.
But the black unemployment rate has been double the rate it is for whites during Obama's presidency (to be fair, it's been that way since the 1950s). Mass incarceration continues to disproportionately affect the black community. By government measures, blacks also have disproportionately worse health outcomes when compared with whites.
The president has indicated that he intends to keep working to improve black life, when he leaves the White House on Jan. 20, 2017. His "My Brother's Keeper" initiative and the Obama presidential library may be vehicles for that effort.