The percentage of white Americans (46 percent) who believe blacks and other minorities receive equal treatment to whites in the criminal justice system is exactly the same as it was in 1992 — the year of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. In contrast, only 17 percent of black Americans and 39 percent of Hispanic Americans agree.
Even a general familiarity with recent protests in Baltimore varies widely by race and ethnicity. About half (52 percent) of Hispanic Americans and 69 percent of white Americans say they have heard a lot about these events, compared to nearly nine in ten (87 percent) black Americans.
The study also found small but significant changes in the views of white Americans since late 2014. More white Americans are ceasing to see the recent killings of black men by police as isolated incidents. While 60 percent of white Americans surveyed in late 2014 viewed recent these killings as isolated incidents, that number has decreased to 45 percent today. On the other hand, the number of white Americans that see these killings as part of a broader pattern has only jumped up from 35 percent to 43 percent.
According to data for religious identities, large percentages of white mainline Protestants and white evangelical Protestants believe police officers generally treat blacks and other minorities the same as whites.
Although 47 percent of white mainline Protestants disagree with this proposition, an equal percentage (47 percent) say they agree. And the same number of white mainline Protestants (47 percent) also says the recent killings of black men by police are isolated incidents and not part of a broader pattern.
Among white evangelical Protestants, the gaps are wider. Nearly six in ten (62 percent) say police treat blacks and other minorities the same as whites, while significantly fewer (32 percent) disagree. And 57 percent of white evangelical Protestants say recent killings are isolated events.
Read more of the study here.
Ryan Stewart is Online Assistant for Sojourners.