White and Black Americans far apart on racial issues

New NPR/Ipsos poll shows that a majority believe racism is built into American systems, yet significant perception gaps remain

The author(s)
  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Sara Machi Research Analyst, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC, August 27, 2020 – A new NPR/Ipsos poll shows that Americans’ attitudes toward racism and racial equality are sharply divided along racial and ethnic lines. A majority of Americans agree that white people have an advantage, compared to people of color, and that racism is built into our country’s economic, government, and educational systems. However, white Americans are significantly less likely than people of color – particularly Black Americans – to say more changes need to be made to address this.

Detailed Findings   

Most Americans acknowledge institutional racism exists in America.

  • More than half, 58%, agree that racism is built into the American economy, government, and educational systems.
  • Though more white Americans agree (50%) than disagree (36%), they are less likely to believe this than any other racial or ethnic group.
  • More than two-thirds of Asian (67%) and Hispanic (69%) Americans agree, along with 83% of Black Americans.

There are significant gaps in perception between white and Black Americans when it comes to attitudes around racism and racial justice.

  • For example, though most Americans (58%) agree that white people have an advantage, compared to people of color, in our society, there is a 34 percentage point difference between white and Black respondents. Eighty-three percent of Black Americans feel this way, compared to just 49% of white Americans.
  • The biggest difference in agreement between the two groups is on the question of reparations. Eighty percent of Black respondents agree that Black Americans whose ancestors were enslaved deserve reparations from the federal government, compared to just 21% of white respondents.
  • White Americans are divided on whether our country needs to continue making changes to give Black Americans equal rights with white Americans (51%) or if our country has made the changes needed (49%).
  • However, a majority of Black (89%), Asian (66%), and Hispanic (63%) Americans all believe our country needs to continue making changes.
  • On the question of whether certain behaviors are seen as racist, people of color are significantly more likely than white people to perceive the following as racist: mispronouncing someone’s name, insisting people speak English in public, and telling someone of another race they are intelligent or articulate.
Institutional racism and change

However, the poll also shows that differences extend past perceptions: Black Americans are more likely to report discrimination because of their race.

  • More than eight in ten Black respondents have experienced a type of discrimination listed in the survey – from racial slurs (47%) and profiling (46%), to minor slights or subtle forms of discrimination (40%) – as a result of their race.
  • At the same time, around a quarter of white respondents say that they have experienced a type of discrimination as a result of their race.
  • A majority of Black Americans, 58%, feel their race gives them a disadvantage in America, whereas white, Hispanic, and Asian Americans are more likely to say it does not provide them an advantage nor a disadvantage.

America’s two major political parties – and their leaders – are viewed very differently when it comes to bringing the country closer to racial equality.

  • A majority of Americans (54%) believe Donald Trump is moving the country farther from racial equality; only 20% say he’s bringing us closer.
  • However, a plurality (38%) say Joe Biden is bringing the country closer to equality, versus the 31% that say he’s moving us farther.
  • Similar to the respective party leaders, more believe the Democratic Party is bringing the country closer to racial equality (37%) compared to the Republican Party (20%). By a more than two-to-one margin, Americans see the Republican Party moving the country farther (46%) rather than closer (20%).

About the Study   

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between August 20-21, 2020, on behalf of NPR. For this survey, a sample of 1,186 adults age 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii was interviewed online in English with oversamples of Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans. This poll is trended against NPR/Ipsos polls conducted between July 30-31, 2020, and June 19-20, 2018, with a sample of 1,115 and 1,071 U.S. adults, respectively.

The sample for this study was randomly drawn from Ipsos’ online panel (see link below for more info on “Access Panels and Recruitment”), partner online panel sources, and “river” sampling (see link below for more info on the Ipsos “Ampario Overview” sample method) and does not rely on a population frame in the traditional sense. Ipsos uses fixed sample targets, unique to each study, in drawing a sample. After a sample has been obtained from the Ipsos panel, Ipsos calibrates respondent characteristics to be representative of the U.S. Population using standard procedures such as raking-ratio adjustments. The source of these population targets is U.S. Census 2016 American Community Survey data. The sample drawn for this study reflects fixed sample targets on demographics. Posthoc weights were made to the population characteristics on gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, and education.

Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online non-probability polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error. Where figures do not sum to 100, this is due to the effects of rounding. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points for all respondents. Ipsos calculates a design effect (DEFF) for each study based on the variation of the weights, following the formula of Kish (1965). This study had a credibility interval adjusted for design effect of the following (n=1,186, DEFF=1.5, adjusted Confidence Interval=+/4.7 percentage points).

The poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points for white Americans, plus or minus 10.7 percentage points for Black Americans, plus or minus 9.8 percentage points for Hispanic Americans, and plus or minus 10.2 percentage points for Asian Americans.

The poll fielded from July 30-31, 2020, has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points, and the poll fielded from June 19-20, 2018, has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

For more information on this news release, please contact:     

Chris Jackson 
Senior Vice President, US   
Public Affairs   
+1 202 420-2025   
[email protected]     

Mallory Newall 
Director, US   
Public Affairs   
+1 202 420-2014   
[email protected]     

Kate Silverstein 
Media Relations Specialist, US   
Public Affairs   
+1 718 755-8829
[email protected] 

About Ipsos   

Ipsos is the world’s third largest market research company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.   

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.   

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).    ISIN code FR0000073298, Reuters ISOS.PA, Bloomberg IPS:FP www.ipsos.com          


The author(s)
  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Sara Machi Research Analyst, Public Affairs