Poll: Half of Americans say racial equality is not yet a reality


People hold up a poster of Dr. King at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Dedication ceremony in Washington, DC on October 16, 2011.


Mladen Antonov

Five decades after Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech, a new poll finds that fewer than half of all Americans feel the United States has made substantial progress toward racial equality.

President Barack Obama is expected to mark the 50th anniversary of the speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial next week.

The study, released on Thursday by the Pew Research Center, found only 45 percent of those in the US feel great progress has been made.

In contrast, some 49 percent felt “a lot more” needed to be done.

Of those polled, African-Americans were much less optimistic about race relations than their white counterparts.

This comes despite previous hope for racial progress following Obama's 2008 election as the nation's first black president.

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African-Americans were more likely to say that blacks faced greater discrimination by police, in the criminal justice system and in public schools.

70 percent of African-Americans versus some 37 percent of Caucasians said they received unfair treatment from the police.

Only 25 percent of African-Americans say their situation is better compared with five years ago. That's down from 39 percent in 2009.

Pew report author Rich Morin said there remains a great disparity among how Americans of different races and political affiliations view the issue.

“Whites and blacks view their communities very differently in terms of how blacks are treated,” Morin explained. “People saw progress, but they want more.”