National poll finds discrimination prevalent in the United States

Perspectives vary widely by race, hope for the future remains

Posted Nov 12, 2013

Discrimination-11-11-13-final[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] A new national poll commissioned by the Episcopal Church has found that nearly all Americans (98 percent) feel that there is at least some discrimination in the United States today.

In addition, African-American respondents (49 percent) are three times as likely as white respondents (16 percent) and Hispanic respondents (11 percent) to feel there is a “great deal” of discrimination.

Harris Interactive conducted the poll online in October among more than 2,000 U.S. adults.

“Despite major reforms, our culture continues to perpetuate discrimination in various forms,” said Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. “Our churches and communities are critical motivators in encouraging change in these issues toward greater parity and acceptance.”

In spite of those findings, more than eight in 10 Americans agree that in the future, Americans will be more accepting of all races. Hispanic respondents (87 percent) are more likely to agree than African-American respondents (68 percent) and are somewhat more optimistic than white (84 percent ) that Americans will be more accepting.

Forum to explore findings

These findings and others will be explored by a distinguished panel of national experts including Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, and former Mississippi Governor William Winter during a public forum on Nov. 15 in Jackson, Mississippi, Fifty Years Later: The State of Racism in America.

The forum will be webcast live from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral and keynoted by the presiding bishop. Details are available here.

Highest level of discrimination

Nearly seven in 10 Americans (69 percent) feel African-Americans are discriminated against, the highest of any race. In addition, six in 10 (63 percent) feel Hispanic Americans are discriminated against, while five in 10 (51 percent) feel Native Americans and nearly four in 10 (39 percent) feel whites are discriminated against.

Generally, individual races feel they are discriminated against more than other races. This is particularly pronounced among African-Americans and white respondents:

  • African-American respondents (96 percent) are more likely to believe they are discriminated against than white (65 percent) and Hispanic (76 percent) respondents.
  • White respondents (45 percent) believe they are more likely to believe they are discriminated against than African-American (11 percent) and Hispanic (21 percent) respondents.
  • Hispanic respondents (75 percent) believe they are more likely to believe they are discriminated against than white (63 percent) respondents.

Minority respondents in general feel that white Americans have gotten more, economically, than they deserve. African-American (58 percent) and Hispanic (49 percent) respondents are more likely than white respondents (28 percent) to agree that white Americans have garnered more economically than they deserve. This disparity was not nearly as prevalent when respondents were asked about other races receiving more economically than they deserve.

According to the results, one indication of differences in perceptions among races may be that many do not have close friends of other races. Hispanic (62 percent) and African-American (52 percent) respondents are more likely to strongly agree than white (41 percent) respondents that they can think of three close (non-family) friends of a race other than their own. People who live in the South (74 percent) and West (79 percent) are more likely to agree than those living in the Midwest (64 percent) or Northeast (65 percent) to agree.

“In general, we also found that respondents who are younger and more highly educated are more likely to be accepting of different races, and to be comfortable with diversity,” Jefferts Schori said. “We recognize that youth and young adults, along with the faith community, are key to helping motivate substantive change in our society.”


Comments (14)

  1. Rich Basta says:

    I don’t understand why the Presiding Bishop, and by extension, the national church, is obssessed with perpetuating this race-based victimology and class warfare. The “Have white Americans have gotten more than they deserve” question just perpetuates the “class- warfare” model, pitting one group of Americans against the other. We have made great strides in this country- why can’t we just leave it at that, or emphasize? Martin Luther King taught us to relate to each other through the “content of our character”, and not to focus on the color of one’s skin. The way the article is written, you would think we haven’t made as much progress as we actually have.

    People can conduct any survey they want. I just feel this type of survey doesn’t move the ball forward. It perpeuates the balkanization of America instead of promoting unity. Others may disagree, but that’s how I feel about it.

    1. John R Huff Jr says:

      No. Mr. Basta, you are one of the reasons we need surveys like this. You have egg on your face, sir.

  2. T J White says:

    What are the statistics for each region of the US?

  3. Jon Spangler says:

    @Rich Basta,

    Wishing that discrimination has lessened–or imagining that we have made more actual progress in overcoming it than we have–will never make it disappear. And the survey does not even mention discrimination against women, gays, lesbians, or transgender persons, who still face open hate and assault simply because of their gender or orientation. Even military veterans face discrimination in hiring. And fear of those who differ from us, especially among Caucasians, is a leading cause of de facto discrimination.

    The United States has a very, very long way to go before we become–even remotely–the open, egalitarian, and equitable society that we like to imagine we are. To pretend that we have not fallen far short of God’s grace and Her call to justice is a deliberate delusion of the worst kind.

    1. Rich Basta says:

      Mr. Huff and Mr. Spangler:

      I think you misrepresented my words.. I will give you both the benefit of the doubt as to your motives, as I don’t know you personally. I never said that there isn’t discrimination in America. We all fall short of God’s grace. I was just merely offering up an opinion that the survey does more harm than good. We have made great progress in this country on many fronts in regards to all kinds of discrimination. That’s an admission based on facts, not a delusion.


  4. Sandra Koenig says:

    Our own church continues to perpetuate discrimination based on both class and race. As long as we continue to have separate services for congregants who are poor, such as the mid-week rector’s pantry; for the non-English speaking; and for the white bill payers, we continue our long Episcopalian tradition of discrimination.

  5. Gerard A. Pisani, Jr + says:

    I would only add that many still point to the fact that such discrimination is most evident at 11AM each Suday in most churches. Are we in the church concerned to doing anything about that? Is this not the pot calling the kettle black? Should we not cast out the beam in our own eyes before we attemp to remove the splinter in others?

  6. Bob Walden says:

    I am appalled by the discrimination in the article. I live in Hawaii where we have quite a mix of races and ethnic backgrounds. Where are the Asians and Pacific Island peoples? Were they not included because this was an East Coast survey? Of course racial discrimination still exists, and probably always will. Most of it is in the eyes of the one discriminated against and what they have been taught by their family and peers. Discrimination is always felt when one feels that they have not been treated fairly. But, life is not fair. Get over it! Love and forgive one another and get on with life. Jesus said that we are to love one another and that implies forgiveness along with it. He came to tell us that God forgives us for not loving one another, but that we are to continue to try anyway. Love will not stop discrimination but forgiveness will help us to get past it and on to happier lives.

  7. Jay Stout says:

    I agree with Mr. Basta that the article is written in such a way that it doesn’t appear to acknowledge how far this country has progressed. I think many people would agree “that there is at least some discrimination in United States today.” However, this is a far cry from just fifty years ago, when segregation still existed, and fire hoses and police dogs were used on protestors. Spending money on a survey that tells us what the preponderance of Americans already know seems to be a misuse of precious funds in my opinion. If the study were to provide us with specific areas of society where racism is the most prevalent, that would at least seem to be useful if that information were followed up by strategies to promote change, and plans to implement those strategies. Otherwise, we are left with something that is void of any real substance or practical information (much like Mr. Huff Jr’s response to Mr. Basta).

    I agree that we should not overestimate how much progress we have made, but to not acknowledge how far this society has come in a relatively short time is to not understand where we actually are today. If we don’t know where we are today, then we don’t know how far we’ve come, and we can’t gage how far we need to go. We are not living in the 1950s and 60s. This is a dramatically different society. Yes, there is always more work to do, but can we at least take a breath and appreciate the progress that has been made? Or will we be doomed to constant hand wringing, never appreciating the progress that God has accomplished thus far?

  8. Neva Rae Fox says:

    The Harris Poll, released November 12, was the first ever commissioned by The Episcopal Church and focused on the topic of discrimination. The results of the poll are not the view of The Episcopal Church. This particular poll addresses specifically the topic of race, and is representative of Americans’ views, according to Harris, a respected polling and research firm.

    Clearly, the Harris Poll points out that while feelings of discrimination are not limited to any one race, it is particularly pronounced among African-Americans and white Americans.

    Conversation about race and discrimination is never easy. That is a foundational reason for The Episcopal Church to sponsoring Fifty Years Later: The State of Racism in America on November 15 and 16. Fifty Years Later: The State of Racism in America is designed to explore this topic further as a Church and as a society, to help find new ways to continue the progress, and to provoke discussion that will, hopefully, lead to broader awareness and personal action.

  9. Gordon May says:

    In the November 12 e-mail newsletter, the lead article was entitled “National poll finds discrimination prevalent in the United States.” I was disappointed to find that this headline was totally inaccurate when compared with the article. The article went on to say:
    A new national poll commissioned by the Episcopal Church has found that nearly all Americans (98 percent) feel that there is at least some discrimination in the United States today.

    My criticism is based on two points:
    1. The article title suggests that discrimination is a fact. That 98 percent of the people polled feel that way is only evidence of prevailing opinion and not of fact.
    2. In a similar manner, the poll did not find that discrimination was “prevalent.” According to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, the term prevalent means dominant or widespread. According to the article, “nearly all Americans feel that there is at least some discrimination.” Clearly, “at least some discrimination” does not mean the same thing as “discrimination is prevalent.”

    Discrimination may or may not be prevalent. Although I suspect discrimination is indeed widespread, we do not have factual evidence either way based on the poll described in the article. To say the least, the headline for this article is misleading.

  10. Angela Shepherd says:

    Really? This poll does not reveal anything new. Discrimination is unfortunately inherent in our being and something to fight against. We all discriminate in some form or fashion for good or ill. Replacing “racism” with “discrimination” is extremely disappointing. I wonder if there has been more push back than anticipated about the forum – 50 Years Later: The State of RACISM in America and therefore discrimination has been lifted up as a softball approach. Racism is different.

    Calling for a church wide forum on this difficult topic took an act of courage. Talking about discrimination is backpedaling away from racism. In 1994 the House of Bishops’ pastoral letter on racism identified it as “sin” and “evil”. Racism continues to exists because we are afraid to address it. Let us not move forward with a spirit of timidity but rather with courage and faith that God moves with us through the pain.

    1. Jane Cutting says:

      Well stated. The distinction between discrimination and racism is important. Anyone who follows the Southern Poverty Center’s tracking of hate groups is aware of the increase in these groups and the work that needs to be done in confronting this ‘sin’ and evil’. I hope this conference and poll will result in new energy in anti racism trainings in TEC.

  11. Br Ronald A Fox says:

    And Asians were left off because ?

Comments are closed.