President Trump listens as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson speaks at an event honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the White House on Jan. 12. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

This, understandably, is the datapoint that has captured much of the attention in a new poll by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.


That’s nearly 6 in 10 Americans who describe President Trump as racist. Nearly half of Americans — 46 percent — strongly believe Trump is racist.

This finding, by itself, isn’t new. Even before he was elected president, a large percentage of Americans considered him racist, including 7 percent of those who supported his candidacy. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that the percentage of people who strongly believed that Trump was biased against black people increased from November 2017 to January, driven in part by comments he made about immigrants from Africa and Haiti that most Americans viewed as racist.

As The Post’s Marwa Eltagouri notes, though, opinions of whether Trump is racist are distributed unevenly in the population. Black Americans are much more likely to think Trump is racist than are white people. In fact, white Americans are more likely to say Trump isn’t racist than that he is.


Why that discrepancy? It’s a fair question, which several other questions in the AP poll can help illuminate.

Broadly speaking, white Americans are also less likely to see black Americans as disadvantaged in society. Although about half of Americans view black Americans as having disadvantages preventing them from getting ahead in the United States, among white Americans the figure is 45 percent. Among black Americans, it’s 79 percent — with half of black Americans thinking that they are at a large disadvantage.


By contrast, 16 percent of white Americans see whites as being disadvantaged in American society — about the same percent as see black Americans as being at a large disadvantage. Among black Americans, 3 percent see whites as being at a disadvantage.

Only a bit over half of white Americans see whites as having an advantage in American society — fewer than see black Americans as not suffering from a disadvantage.


This divide in perceptions of advantages isn’t present only when considering black and white Americans. The split when thinking about the challenges faced by immigrants mirrors that for blacks.


There’s a correlation here to a factor that has been noted in racial attitudes in the United States: how many people in each group live and work with people of other races.

Sixty percent of white Americans say they mostly or entirely have other white people in their neighborhoods; 62 percent of blacks say their neighborhoods are either racially split or mostly nonblack.


Nearly 4 in 10 black respondents in the AP poll reported living in cities, about twice the percentage of whites who do. That explains some significant part of the figure above. Another major factor, of course, is that whites are the majority racial group in the United States, meaning that it’s more likely that whites would live near other whites.

When it comes to the workplace, the divide is even wider. A third of white respondents say they don’t have a workplace, another third say that their workplaces are mostly or entirely white. Among blacks, 20 percent of whom reported not having a workplace and 14 percent reported working mostly or entirely among black people.


It’s overly simplistic to say that perceptions of racial bias are linked to a lack of experiences with people from other racial groups and, by extension, that those views color perceptions of Trump.

It’s fair to say, though, that white Americans are less likely to live around nonwhite Americans and are also less likely to view nonwhites as facing disadvantages. This correlates to a lower likelihood of seeing Trump’s behavior as reflecting racist beliefs.

Trump has repeatedly insisted that he is not racist, that he is, in fact, the “least racist person” you’ve ever met. He is also a white person who, despite living in Manhattan, has long lived in an insulated world populated almost entirely by white people.