Number of Americans who say racism is a “big problem” has doubled since Obama’s historic inauguration

Hope quickly dissipated.
Hope quickly dissipated.
Image: Reuters/POOL New
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The share of Americans who now believe racism is a “big problem” in society, has doubled since January 2009—the month of former president Barack Obama’s first inauguration.

That’s according to Pew Research’s latest survey that showed from 2011 to 2015, there was a notable jump in those answering “yes” to that question. This coincides with the years of the Obama ‘birther’ conspiracy (where conservatives argued that Obama was not born in the US).

While there was an increase in the number of Democrats and Republicans who say racism is a big problem in society, there was a notable partisan divide. The number of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who view racism as a big problem jumped from 32% in 2009, to 76% in 2017. For Republicans, that figure jumped from 18% in 2009, to 37% in 2017.

There were also significant racial differences. The share of black Americans who say racism is a big problem in society jumped from 44% in 2009, to 81% in 2017. While the share of White Americans who say racism is a big problem in society increased from 22% in 2009, to 52% in 2017. Overall, 58% of Americans say racism is a “big problem in our society,” 29% say it is “somewhat of a problem,” and just 12% say it is a small problem or not a problem at all.

There was also wide racial divide on opinions about the Black Lives Matter movement. In 2017, black Americans are 30 percentage points more likely than white Americans to support Black Lives Matter (82% vs 52%). Opinions about the Black Lives Matter movement were also deeply divided along partisan lines; while 80% Democrats and Democratic leaners support Black Lives Matter, just 23% of Republicans and Republican leaners say the same.