It’s been more than two years since historic levels of social unrest over racism and discrimination rocked the nation—unrest sparked by the murder of George Floyd and exacerbated by disparities in health and economics laid bare by COVID-19. As Martin Luther King, Jr. Day approaches, how are adults across California feeling about racism in the United States today?
Overwhelming majorities of Californians continue to say racism is at least somewhat of a problem (39% big, 40% somewhat), compared to fewer who say it is a small problem (15%), or not a problem at all in the United States (5%), according to a November PPIC Statewide Survey. While similar shares of adults today see racism as at least somewhat of a problem as in July 2020, a closer look suggests a different story.
The share saying racism is a big problem fell from 60% in July 2020—at the height of protests—to 39% last November. This change is due in part to the growing share who now say racism is somewhat of a problem: this group rose from 25% in July 2020 to 40% in late November.
Similar to the overall decline, shares who view racism as big problem fell among all partisan, demographic, and regional groups, though these shares still vary. Democrats saw a 24-point drop (81% in July 2020 to 57% in November 2022), compared to smaller, but still sharp declines among independents (55% to 36%) and Republicans (25% to 13%).
The largest drops among racial/ethnic groups were with Latinos (falling 28 points from 71% in 2020 to 43% in 2022) and Asian Americans (falling 22 points from 57% in 2020 to 35% in 2022). African Americans saw a 15-point decrease (from 86% to 71%) over this period, but remain the most likely among racial/ethnic groups to say racism is a big problem. White residents remain least likely to say this, with a 14-point decline from 50% in July 2020 to 36% in 2022.
Shares with this view fell below half in all major regions—Orange/San Diego, the Inland Empire, and Los Angeles had the largest declines. As of November 2022, African Americans, Democrats, and adults with incomes under $40,000 are the only demographic groups where at least half say racism is a big problem in America.
Californians seem alert to the consequences of racism, recognizing that discrimination can play a role in economic well-being. Last November, seven in ten Californians said racial/ethnic discrimination contributes a great deal (29%) or a fair amount (41%) to economic inequality in the United States.
Nationwide, officials are finding new ways to acknowledge that racism endangers the health and well-being of the public. Since October 2021, over 200 counties, cities, and leaders across the country have declared racism a public health crisis as a first step toward making change; a recent declaration came from the Board of Supervisors in Orange County, who declared racism a public health crisis in December. As California and the nation work toward addressing issues of racism and discrimination, the PPIC Statewide Survey will continue tracking the public’s perceptions on these issues.