By Tara Bahrampour, (c) 2017, The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — A large majority of African-Americans feel negatively about the direction the country is heading and most are pessimistic about their own prospects under the Trump administration, a poll released this week shows.
In a nationwide survey of 1,003 African-Americans, taken in July and August of this year, 84 percent said they feel the country is on the wrong track and around two thirds said they feel worried about President Donald Trump and fear his policies will negatively affect black people.
The poll, “The Lives and Voices of Black America,” was conducted by PerryUndem and administered by the University of Chicago’s NORC AmeriSpeaks panel, with funding from the Ford Foundation.
It is unusual in that it focused solely on African-Americans, who comprise 13 percent of the population; they are more typically polled as a subset of the general population.
Sixty-four percent of respondents said they believed Trump’s policies would negatively affect black people, while only 5 percent thought they would positively affect them. Twenty-four percent said they would both positively and negatively affect black people.
Although the study did not have earlier data with which to compare results, surveys taken about black men in 2006 and about black women in 2011 by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation show a stark drop in optimism now compared to the earlier dates.
In 2011, the third year of Barack Obama’s presidency, 71 percent of black Americans said it was a good time to be a black woman and 17 percent said it was bad; in the new poll, 18 percent of respondents said it was a good time to be a black woman and 45 percent said it was bad.
In 2006, the sixth year of George W. Bush’s presidency, 51 percent of black Americans said it was a good time to be black men and 36 percent said it was bad; in the new poll, only 12 percent of respondents said it was a good time to be a black man, and 59 percent said it was bad.
The PerryUndem and Washington Post/Kaiser surveys were not worded or conducted identically, but the differences in response were stark enough to merit attention, said Liz Hamel, director of public opinion and survey research at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“Despite the methodological differences, it is striking that this new poll finds such large shares of black Americans saying it is a bad time to be a black man or woman in the U.S. today, while our earlier polls found much larger shares saying it was a good time to belong to one of these groups,” she said.
A study last month by the Pew Research Center underlined the change: it found that eighty-one percent of black Americans saw racism as a “big problem” in American society, compared to 44 percent in 2009.
Two other recent Pew surveys found that black Americans’ view of the state of race relations and racial equality were already pessimistic in the months before Trump was elected.
In one, published in June 2016, 61 percent of blacks said race relations were generally bad and 43 percent said they did not believe the country would make the changes necessary to give blacks equality with whites. Fifty-one percent said Obama had made progress on race relations. And in a Pew poll published the following month, 65 percent of black Americans said it is a lot more difficult to be black in America than white.
PerryUndem also conducted on-the-street interviews with black people to accompany the survey. “With the president and the racial slurs … (respondents felt) clearly that this president was going to advocate for policies that were going to benefit white people and that he was going to roll back everything Obama did that many feel was a positive thing in their lives,” said Tresa Undem, a partner at the polling firm.
The poll was commissioned by In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, and included questions about access to birth control and factors in deciding whether to have a child. Those answers also reflected anxiety about the current administration.
Over half of respondents said issues such as access to childcare, quality public schools and higher education had influenced their decisions about whether or not to have a child.
Although the overall responses were pessimistic, at least two interviewees struck a positive note, Undem said.
“A couple of women said it was not a good time but also said it gives hope because there’s a light being shone on what’s a problem,” she said.
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