Blacks' Political Engagement Spikes, Though Racial Divisions Remain Deep

One issue rates lower still, the idea of government reparations for slavery.

Twenty-four percent of blacks assign it a top priority, last on the list even for blacks. Reparations are of greater interest to low-education blacks (30 percent give it a top priority) than to those with college degrees (just 5 percent).

Blacks Still Reach for Racial Equality

There's general agreement across groups that blacks have not yet achieved racial equality, though with still-wide differences: Just under four in 10 whites think so, declining to a quarter of Hispanics and just 11 percent of blacks themselves.

Most think that, if not yet, they will soon; but a substantial number of blacks, 44 percent, think racial equality will not come in their lifetime, or will never come.

There are differences among groups. Pessimism, as noted, peaks among blacks who've personally experienced racial discrimination – 50 percent in this group say equality will not come in their lifetime, or won't ever come; among those who haven't experienced discrimination just 26 percent say so.

Blacks divide, 49-46 percent, on whether they need to play down their racial identity in order to get ahead (most whites and Hispanics think not). As noted, blacks who've personally experienced discrimination are more apt to think it's necessary for blacks to play down their racial identity. And this view peaks among higher-income blacks; among those with $100,000 incomes, 63 percent think they have to play down their racial identity. That drops to 48 percent among those with lower incomes.

In another measure, slightly more blacks say the history of slavery has too much rather than too little influence in how blacks think about themselves today, 31 percent vs. 26 percent, with the rest saying it's about right. (Whites and Hispanics say it has too much influence, by much wider margins.)

Blacks are inclined to reach out: Eighty-six percent say they're better off building coalitions with other ethnic and racial groups than working alone to solve community problems. But they also display group cohesion; 64 percent of blacks think that what happens to blacks generally impacts them personally.

Some of that, as with many views among blacks, is influenced by racial discrimination. Among blacks who've experienced discrimination, 70 percent say they're impacted by what happens to others of their race. Among blacks who haven't felt discrimination, far fewer, 48 percent, share that view.

METHODOLOGY: This ABC News/USA Today/Columbia University poll was conducted by telephone Sept. 11-14, 2008, among a random national sample of 1,941 adults, including oversamples of African-Americans (for a total of 1,032) and Hispanics (315). Groups were weighted to their correct share of the national population. Results for the full sample have a 2-point error margin; for blacks, 3 points; for whites, 4 points; and for Hispanics, 5.5 points. Columbia's University's participation in the survey was supported by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by Social Science Research Solutions at ICR-International Communications Research of Media, Pa.

Click here for a PDF with charts and full questionnaire.

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