With the nation poised to inaugurate its first African American president, the survey found that just over a quarter of all Americans said they see racism as a large societal problem, less than half of the 54 percent who said so about a dozen years ago. Americans also have high hopes that Obama -- who is of mixed-race parentage but refers to himself as African American -- will inspire an improvement in race relations.
But even as declining numbers of Americans see racism as a big problem for the country, there has been little change in the amount of racism people perceive in their local communities. The survey also found that there has been little change over the past six years in the proportion of African Americans who said they have experienced racial bias in housing, employment and other areas.
"There are two levels of identity with racism," said Ron Walters, a University of Maryland political scientist. "One is the national level, which is more symbolic. And the other is how they parse it in terms of their lives."
Often, he explained, people channel the experiences of family and friends as they develop their views about racism. "If I have a brother who is pulled over by the cops, it influences me almost as much as if it happened to me," Walters said.
The poll shows continued wide disparities over how people of both races perceive the issue, and there has been no letup in the numbers sensing discrimination where they live.
In the new survey, 44 percent of blacks and 22 percent of whites continue to see racism as a large societal problem. In 1996, 70 percent of blacks and 52 percent of whites held that view.
Conversely, 28 percent of whites and 15 percent of blacks in the new survey said they see racism as a small problem, or no problem at all.
Racial disparities are also apparent when people were asked whether African Americans have achieved or will achieve racial equality in this country. Seventy-three percent of all those surveyed said African Americans have reached or will soon reach equality, including three-quarters of whites and just over half of blacks. More HERE