Black-White Conflict Isn’t Society's Largest

Sep 24, 2009

It may surprise anyone following the charges of racism that have flared up during the debate over President Obama's health care proposals, but a survey taken this summer found that fewer people perceived there are strong conflicts between blacks and whites than saw strong conflicts between immigrants and the native born, or between rich people and poor people.

A majority (55%) of adults said there are "very strong" or "strong" conflicts between immigrants and people born in the United States. Nearly as many—47%—said the same about conflicts between rich people and poor people, according to a nationally representative survey by the Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends project.

The survey found that about four-in-ten (39%) believe there are serious conflicts between blacks and whites, and only a quarter (26%) see major generational divisions between the young and old.

The findings come at a time when discussions about the role of racism in American society has featured heavily in media coverage of Obama's presidency—triggered first by the arrest in July of a prominent African-American Harvard professor in his own home, and more recently by the assertion by former President Jimmy Carter that much of the opposition to Obama's policies is racially motivated. The Pew Research survey was conducted from July 20 to Aug. 2, shortly after the Harvard incident but before President Carter's recent comments.

Read the full report Black-White Conflict Isn’t Society's Largest on the Pew Research Center's Social and Demographic Trends Web site.

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