Blacks are twice as likely to think police will use deadly force against a black person

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Americans say race relations are worse now than they were in 1990, and the number of people viewing relations between races as bad is at its highest point since the aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.


Just 34 percent of respondents in a new CBS/New York Times poll said race relations in the U.S. are good, compared with 61 percent who said they are bad. Just 17 percent of respondents said race relations are getting better, while 44 percent said they’re getting worse.

The poll comes in the aftermath of last week’s tension in Baltimore after the death of 25-year-old black man Freddie Gray. Six Baltimore police officers were charged late last week in connection with Gray’s death. The poll found that blacks are more than twice as likely to think police will use deadly force against a black person.

There’s not much of a divide along racial lines about the state of race relations, as there has been in past CBS/New York Times surveys. Overall, 33 percent of white respondents in the poll and 28 percent of black respondents said relations between races are good — 62 percent and 65 percent, respectively, said they are bad.

In the immediate aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, 25 percent of respondents in the CBS/New York Times survey said relations were good, while 68 percent said they were bad.

There is a significant racial gulf in attitudes toward police in the U.S., however. For example, when asked whether a community’s police makes a respondent feel “safe” or “anxious,” 81 percent of white respondents said “safe.” Just 51 percent of black respondents said the same. Only 16 percent of whites said they were anxious about community police, compared with 42 percent of blacks.

Respondents were also asked whether they believe police were more likely to use deadly force against a white person, a black person, or if they believe race doesn’t factor in their decision making.


Overall, 46 percent of respondents felt race does not affect cops’ decision-making process. But that was driven by the 53 percent of white respondents who chose that option — just 16 percent of blacks said the same. Meanwhile, 79 percent of black respondents said police would be more likely to use deadly force against a black person, compared with 37 percent of whites.

Whites also have more faith that the investigation into Gray’s death will be handled “fairly” — 64 percent have at least “some” confidence that the investigation will be conducted fairly, compared with 46 percent of blacks. Fifty-two percent of black respondents either had no confidence it would be handled fairly or “not much.”


Pluralities of both white and black respondents, however, agreed that the unrest in Baltimore following Gray’s death — in which protesters looted and sometimes turned to violence — was not justified, by a 61-28 margin.

Brett LoGiurato is the senior national political correspondent at Fusion, where he covers all things 2016. He'll give you everything you need to know about politics, with a healthy side of puns.