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Latest Marist Poll takes look at racism in the United States


Racism remains a prevalent problem in the United States. But many Americans do not think the responsibility to end racism is exclusive to one race. Rather, the responsibility belongs to both Black and White people, according to this exclusive Third Rail with OZY-Marist Poll, commissioned by WGBH Boston and OZY Media for the new PBS prime-time, cross-platform debate program Third Rail with OZY.

Americans perceive the solution to lie in the hands of everyone, and do not believe Black people need to work harder than others to end racism.

The disparity in the perception of societal advancement between Blacks and Whites has not improved. Although half of Americans assert that both Black and White people have an equal chance of getting ahead today in society, by more than 10-to-one Americans say White people have a better chance than Black people of doing so. And, this disparity has changed little over the past 20 years.

The national survey was conducted by The Marist Poll in advance of the Sept. 15 Third Rail with OZY debate, which asked: “Is America becoming more, or less, racist”? Third Rail with OZY, hosted by Emmy Award-winning journalist Carlos Watson, is a seven-part cross-platform series. Each week, expert and celebrity guests engage with Watson to debate a timely, provocative topic, incorporating audience and social media input and exclusive national polls.

The Marist Poll found that the onus to improve race relations is on everyone, according to 60 percent of Americans. However, 22 percent of residents believe the responsibility belongs to White people, and 7 percent say Black people need to work on correcting the problem.

A majority of residents (56 percent) do not think people of color need to work harder to end racism while 37 percent believe people of color need to do more. A racial divide exists. African American, (57 percent) and Latino (42 percent) residents are more likely than White Americans (32 percent) to say that people of color need to work harder to end racism.

The survey called to mind the reflections of Martin Luther King Jr. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” said Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, quoting the late civil rights leader. “But, in its totality, the results demonstrate the arc is bending very slowly, at best.”

Half of Americans (50 percent) think White and Black people have an equal chance of getting ahead in today’s society. This is little changed from 46 percent of U.S. residents who expressed this view in a 1997 CBS News/New York Times survey. Forty-one percent compared to 43 percent two decades ago say White people have a better chance at advancing. Only 4 percent think Black people have the edge in getting ahead, similar to 5 percent in the 1997 survey.

Again, opinions differed by race. While a majority of White Americans (54 percent) say both Black and White residents have an equal chance of advancing, nearly two-thirds of African Americans (65 percent) and half of Latinos (50 percent) report White people have the advantage to move ahead in today’s society.

Americans perceive racism to be a bigger issue in American society than sexism. Fifty-four percent of U.S. residents consider the nation to be more racist than sexist. Twenty-four percent think America is more sexist than racist. One in ten (10 percent) say the United States is neither racist nor sexist, and 12 percent are unsure. Both men (48 percent) and women (61 percent) think the country is more racist, but interestingly, men (28 percent) are more likely than women (19 percent) to consider it to be more sexist.

“Racism continues to be a defining issue for this nation,” says Denise Dilanni, series creator and executive in charge of Third Rail with OZY. “The topic has dominated the public and political arenas in the past year, which was why the Sept. 15 debate question was “America becoming more, or less, racist?”

The exclusive Marist/Third Rail with OZY poll asked Americans: “Do President Donald Trump’s comments about people of color such as Muslims, immigrants, or African Americans make it more or less acceptable for people to make racist comments?” A plurality (46 percent) says it makes it more acceptable, including 63 percent of African Americans and 53 percent of Latinos. Thirty-six percent of Americans think the president’s past remarks make it less acceptable. Nearly one in five (18 percent) are unsure.

Democrats (67 percent) and independents (49 percent) are more likely than Republicans (20 percent) to believe President Trump’s comments about people of color make it more acceptable to make racist comments. Fifty percent of Republicans say his statements make it less acceptable.

More than half of Americans (51 percent) think the anti-immigration movement is simply about securing the country’s borders, and 35 percent believe it is really an anti-people of color movement. Fourteen percent are unsure. Again, Democrats (63 percent) African Americans (57 percent) and Latinos (46 percent) are more likely than Republicans (5 percent) and White residents, (29 percent) to think the anti-immigration movement is about race.

For more on Third Rail with OZY, visit : #ThirdRailPBS. For more on The Marist Poll, visit

About The Marist Poll

Founded in 1978, The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion (MIPO) is a survey research center at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. The Marist Poll has conducted independent research on public priorities, elections, and a wide variety of social issues through the regular public release of surveys.