Obama's rise spotlights gains in race relations

Racial divides persist on some issues. Among blacks, 76% support affirmative action programs based on race; 61% of whites oppose them. Still, solid majorities of blacks, whites and Hispanics support such programs for hiring, promotions and college admissions if they are based on income instead of race.

Some aspects of racial identity that fueled the civil rights movement in the 1960s seem to have eased. In the survey, most blacks and whites say blacks should "work within the system" rather than protest to get ahead. By nearly 3-1, blacks say they should concentrate on building economic power rather than gaining political power.

Blacks, whites and Hispanics say by wide margins that they have more in common with those in their economic and social class than with those of their race.

And the goal of racial equality?

Most Americans say equality for blacks has been achieved already or will be achieved in the foreseeable future, although the 75% of whites who take that view outnumber the 52% of blacks who hold it. Less optimistic: 20% of whites, 25% of Hispanics and 44% of blacks who say racial equality won't be achieved "in my lifetime" or beyond.

William Cook, 42, of Bonham, Texas, a counselor now working on a master's degree, is among the optimists. Obama's candidacy "speaks volumes for the progress that we've made as a nation," says Cook, who is black.

"Have they achieved full equality? Probably not, but I think they certainly will relatively soon," says Dufkin, who is white. "It's definitely a work in progress."

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