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Negative views on race relations in the United States reach record high

Posted July 23

Negative views on race relations have reached levels higher than those during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, according to a new CBS and New York Times poll.

The poll, released Wednesday night, comes after the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, as well as after five Dallas police officers were killed during a protest.

Sixty-nine percent of Americans now believe race relations in the country are mostly bad, compared to 68 percent after the 1992 Los Angeles riots induced by a court acquittal of three police officers involved with the beating of Rodney King, a black taxi driver.

Negative views have risen 11 percent since one year ago, when 57 percent of Americans thought race relations were bad. America's views on race were most optimistic in 2009, shortly after President Barack Obama was elected to office, with only 22 percent reporting negative thoughts on race relation.

According to the poll, negative views began to increase in 2014 after Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officers in Ferguson, Missouri. The shooting brought more attention to the already growing Black Lives Matter, which works to "rebuild the black liberation movement."

Americans' views on the movement are positive among black Americans, with 70 percent saying they agree with the group, but white Americans are split: 37 percent say they agree, 31 percent disagree and 28 percent said they had no opinion on the matter.

And despite recent criticism of police performance, 75 percent of Americans believe the police are doing their job well, and 80 percent say the police make them feel safe.

Broken down by race, however, there are some disparities.

While 80 percent of white Americans report the police are doing their job to the best of their ability, only 43 percent of black Americans agree. And 47 percent of black Americans say the police make them feel "anxious" or afraid, whereas 85 percent of white Americans say a police presence makes them feel safe.

Ayesha Numan, a 22-year-old black woman, told the New York Times in a follow-up interview that recent events have made her more "cautious" around police officers.

"I have been in situations where the police have made situations worse rather than better," Numan said. "That's not to say I write them off as all bad. I just have to be cautious of how they're acting around me."

Furthermore, 75 percent of black Americans think the police are "more likely to use deadly force against a black person than a white person." Fifty-six percent of white Americans don't think that race plays a role in a police officer's decision to use deadly force.

"I don’t want to say it’s 100 percent that every time someone gets shot, it’s just the police being racist," said Roger Boulanger, a 46-year-old white man, to the New York Times. "I don't think that."

The poll also notes that white Americans and black Americans are close to equally as "pessimistic about the state of race relations in the U.S.”

And that pessimism is ongoing, according to the poll. Only 9 percent of Americans believe that race relations are improving, a 12-point drop from one year ago.

CBS and the New York Times conducted the poll by telephone July 8-12, 2016, among a random sample of 1,600 adults nationwide in English and Spanish. Data have been weighted to reflect U.S. Census figures on demographic variables.

Email: sweber@deseretnews.com; Twitter: @sarapweber

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