8 in 10 Seek 'Major' Focus on Race as Most Say Relations Are Worsening (POLL)

A vast majority thinks the next president should focus on race relations.

— -- A vast 83 percent of Americans say the next president should place an “especially major” focus on trying to improve race relations – which, following the Dallas police killings and high-profile shootings of blacks by police, majorities see as bad and getting worse.

Sixty-three percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll say race relations generally are bad and 55 percent say they’re worsening, sharply more negative views than just two months ago. Only a third say relations are good and just one in 10 say they’re getting better.

See PDF with full results here.

This translates into a broad desire for progress. Not only do 83 percent say the next president should put an especially major focus on trying to improve race relations, nearly half in this group also say it’s “extremely” important. Just 12 percent don’t want a major focus on the issue, and few of them feel strongly about it.

To the extent race relations influence the presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton may benefit: the public trusts her more than Donald Trump to handle the issue by 58 to 26 percent, with Clinton preferred by 89 percent of Democrats, 55 percent of independents and a quarter of Republicans. She also leads Trump by 66-21 percent on the issue among those who think the next president should focus heavily on race relations.

Racial Groups<strong></strong>

Clinton-Trump gaps on race relations span racial groups in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. Though her advantage expands to 74-12 percent among nonwhites (a broadly Democratic group), Clinton also leads Trump on the issue by 15 points among whites, 50-35 percent. Among whites who think relations are deteriorating, though, Trump’s trust deficit with Clinton disappears.

Seventy-two percent of blacks, 65 percent of Hispanics and 63 percent of whites say race relations currently are bad. Half of blacks, and 55 and 56 percent of whites and Hispanics, respectively, also say they’re getting worse.

Blacks and Hispanics are 11 points more apt than whites to say the next president should put a major focus on the issue. But the big difference is in how many call this extremely important: Just 40 percent of whites who favor a major focus on race relations, vs. 67 and 64 percent of blacks and Hispanics, respectively.

Other Groups

Pessimism about race relations is higher among young adults, 73 percent, compared with 61 percent of those older than 29. Americans without a college degree are 10 points more likely than those with a college degree to think relations are poor and 14 points more likely to think the situation is getting worse. Both groups contain higher shares of minorities.

City dwellers are 10 points more likely than rural residents to view relations as generally poor, but the latter are 9 points more apt to think things are getting worse. And women are 8 points more likely than men to think relations are worsening.

Democrats and liberals both split on whether race relations are getting worse or merely staying the same. By contrast, majorities of independents and moderates – as well as about two in three Republicans, conservatives and evangelical white Protestants – think relations are declining.

In the largest political difference, four in 10 liberal Democrats think race relations are worsening (a plurality says they’re staying the same), compared with two-thirds of conservative Republicans.

That said, improving race relations is a bigger priority for Democrats and liberals; more than nine in 10 say the next president should be someone who puts a major focus on the issue, and among them, six in 10 say it’s extremely important. While three-quarters of Republicans also favor a major focus on race relations, only 35 percent say it’s extremely important.

Methodology

This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone July 11-14, 2016, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,003 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including the design effect.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York, N.Y. See details on the survey’s methodology here.