After Ferguson, American Attitudes About Race Are Changing — Except Within This One Group (IMAGES)

Since the killing of Michael Brown, followed by days of unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, the country has been more focused on race than probably any time since the 1960’s. That focus has been maintained by a series of deadly encounters between black Americans and police officers. Now, there are signs that this new attention to racial disparities is causing a shift among Americans’ opinions — except among conservatives and Republicans.

A new Washington Post poll finds that over the past year, Americans are starting to come around to the notion that, while much progress has been made on racial equality over the past 50 years, there is still much work to be done. The shift among most demographic groups in just the past year has been remarkable.

The Washington Post poll reveals that now, a year after Ferguson, 60 percent of Americans say that the country needs to continue working to give blacks equal rights with whites. Just a little over a year ago, a Pew Research poll found that only 46 percent considered equal rights to be an issue.

This shift in attitude is seen among all races, as the graphic below shows.

Racial Equality poll 1


But when responses are separated by political affiliation, Republicans are the group that has moved the least on the issue. To be fair, there has been some movement in Republican sentiment about racial issues, but the shift has not been nearly as dramatic as it has been among other groups.

Of course, as a number gets closer to 100 percent, it is harder to get that number to move in a positive direction. Yet, compared to last year’s Pew poll, the number of Democrats who believe the country has to do more on racial equality jumped by 12 points, from 67 to 79 percent. Independents had the biggest shift in thinking, going from 42 percent who were concerned about equality in 2014, to 62 percent this year. And Republicans? Last year only 27 percent believed that more should be done to address inequality. After Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, and others, that number has grown to only 34 percent.

Racial Equality poll 2

So why are Republicans lagging behind everyone else in their attitudes on race? One explanation might be that by definition, conservatives are not trend setters. They are the people who see everything as being fine like it is and can’t find any good reasons to change. It could also be that, while they vehemently deny it, the Republican base is filled with racists and those racists are pandered to by many, if not most, Republican politicians.

Then there’s Fox News and other right wing media, who rush to blame the victim when an African-American is shot by police; and who tell their viewers, listeners, or readers that we live in a “post-racial” society. They take the position that police are never biased and that if a person of color is killed in a confrontation with police, it is because that person either had a criminal past, so they had it coming, or they did something that forced the officer to act in the way that he or she did.

The bottom line is that if anything good has come out of the needless deaths of several black men over the past year, it is that most of the country has awakened to the fact that America is a place that still has serious issues with race. As usual, Republicans are arriving late and in fewer numbers than the rest of us.

Featured image via Mississippi NAACP