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Post poll: Third of Americans say Obama's presidency has improved race relations

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Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, January 17, 2011; 5:52 PM

Despite high public expectations that Barack Obama's presidency would improve race relations in the country, barely more than a third of Americans now say his tenure has made things better in this area, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

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Overall, 35 percent say Obama has helped race relations, down from 58 percent who, in January 2009, expected them to improve as a result of the country's having its first black president. And blacks and whites continue to have starkly different assessments about how African Americans are faring in the United States when it comes to the racial equality championed by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Almost half of whites say that blacks have achieved racial parity, up significantly since Obama's inauguration two years ago. By contrast, views among African Americans have barely budged since Obama took office: Just 19 percent of blacks now see a level playing field. Then, as now, about half say racial equality either won't be achieved in their lifetimes or never will be.

Optimism is down: Far fewer blacks say Obama's presidency has helped race relations than said so in a January 2009 poll. A slender 51 percent majority say Obama has helped race relations - no change from last year, but a big letdown from the 75 percent who had anticipated such improvement.

In January 2009, most whites also anticipated Obama's bringing about a thaw in race relations; fewer than 1 in 3 now sees such progress. Among whites, 47 percent say racial equality has been achieved, up nine percentage points over the two years.

The poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 13 to 16 among a random national sample of 1,053 adults. The margin of sampling error for the full poll is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points; it is 9.5 points for the sample of African Americans.

cohenj@washpost.com craighillp@washpost.com


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