The first paragraph in the Washington Post’s lead story today paints a bleak picture:
“As Sen. Barack Obama opens his campaign as the first African American on a major party presidential ticket, nearly half of all Americans say race relations in the country are in bad shape and three in 10 acknowledge feelings of racial prejudice, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.”
As does the third paragraph:
“Overall, 51 percent call the current state of race relations “excellent” or “good,” about the same as said so five years ago. That is a relative thaw from more negative ratings in the 1990s, but the gap between whites and blacks on the issue is now the widest it has been in polls dating to early 1992.”
But the poll itself tells a more balanced story. For example:
- While “three in 10 acknowledge feelings of racial prejudice,” that number is down from their 1999 poll (the only one they cite for reference). And “Whites” assess themselves with less prejudice (30 percent) than “Blacks” (34), which bodes well for “the first African American on a major party presidential ticket.”
- And while three in 10 acknowledge feelings of racial prejudice,” seven in 10 did not. In other words, the overwhelming majority.
- And “relative thaw” doesn’t begin to reflect the massive change in attitudes from the “more negative ratings in the 1990s.” Positive views of race relations jumped from 31 in 1997 to 51 percent now. And there is a 30-point improvement from the overall view of 21 percent in 1992.
- As to the “nearly half of all Americans (who) say race relations in the country are in bad shape,” that number is a major improvement from the 1990s. While 47 percent now say race relations are in bad shape, the 1997 poll showed 68 percent; the 1992 poll said 77 percent.
So, while you can find the negative in any poll, this article missed some massive improvements.
We don’t have a political messiah running this year. Which is fine, because we don’t actually need one.