Poll: Contact Between Races Up

Social contact between the races has grown over the decades, to the point where three-quarters of white and black Americans have a friend of the other race, more than half have broken bread at dinner and seven in 10 live in racially mixed communities.

Racial discrimination, however, remains a reality for many blacks: Fifty-four percent in this ABC News survey have felt they've been discriminated against because of their race, compared with 19 percent of whites. And 13 percent of blacks -- a small percentage, but one in eight individuals -- say they experience discrimination "very often."

Overall, though, two long-term trends are positive for race relations. In 1973, just 20 percent of Americans said they'd had a friend of the other race home for dinner (whites for blacks, blacks for non-blacks). That doubled by the mid-'90s, cracked into a majority in an ABC News poll in 2003 and remains there now, at 52 percent. (Blacks are more likely than whites to have shared dinner with a friend of the other race. A majority of blacks has done so, 63 percent, compared with just under half of whites, 48 percent.)

Similarly, in 1981, 54 percent of whites said they had a fairly close personal friend who was black; today, 75 percent of whites say so. Among blacks in 1981, 69 percent said they had a white friend; today, it's 82 percent.

Race relations were in the news last week when the Senate approved a resolution apologizing for never passing anti-lynching legislation. Race relations also are the focus of a new film, "Crash," that's explored on the ABC News program "Nightline" tonight.

In this poll, 70 percent of all Americans describe their community as racially mixed, ranging from 77 percent of blacks to 67 percent of whites. People in rural (or so-called "non-metro" areas by Census designation) are the least likely to live in racially mixed communities; 56 percent do, compared with 72 percent in metro areas.

Racially mixed communities are most prevalent in the West and South (where 74 percent and 73 percent, respectively, say they live in one), a bit less so in the Northeast (63 percent).

There's an apparent difference in this survey in the number of blacks who say they've been discriminated against racially -- 54 percent, compared with 64 percent in a January 2003 poll. That difference is not significant, however, given the sample sizes. (There was an insufficient sample of Hispanics in this survey for separate analysis.)

Finally, generational differences suggest that contact between the races may continue to increase. Seniors are the least likely Americans to say they have a friend, or have shared dinner with someone, of the other race. Younger adults are much more likely to say so.

Have a friend of another race
Age 65+   61%
Age 35-64   75
Age 18-34   83

Had a black/white friend home for dinner
Age 65+   35%
Age 35-64   54
Age 18-34   57


This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone June 2-5, 2005, among a random national sample of 1,002 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

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