Amid Black Lives Matter protests, most Utahns say race relations are in bad shape

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6 in 10 Utahns say race relations in the U.S. are not good according to a new survey.

35 percent of Utahns say race relations are “fairly bad” and another 25 percent say race relations are “very bad.” The survey from and KUTV 2News conducted by Y2 Analytics also finds a third of Utahns (33 percent) feel race relations are “fairly good” while 7 just 7 percent believe race relations in the country are “very good.”

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The survey comes amid nationwide Black Lives Matter protests following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. The protests have been a nightly fixture in many cities for weeks.

Public opinion has shifted dramatically toward the Black Lives Matter movement and toward the belief that racial and ethnic discrimination, especially by police officers, is a real problem. A Pew Research Center survey found a big majority of Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement.

Several statues honoring Confederate soldiers and leaders have been removed as a result of the protests. Earlier this month, NASCAR banned the display of the Confederate Flag at their races. Several pro sports leagues reversed their ban on players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality.

In Utah, attitudes toward race relations break along partisan lines, with Republicans believing that race relations are good, while independents and Democrats saying the opposite.

For example, nearly 2/3rds of “strong Republicans” say that race relations are either “very” or “farily good.” 51 percent of moderate Republicans agree, as do 68 percent of independent voters who lean toward the GOP. 

2/3rds of independent voters say racial attitudes in the U.S. are bad, while big majorities of the Democratic groups we polled agreed. 

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Kelly Patterson of Y2 Analytics says those numbers aren’t surprising as Republicans tend to evaluate race relations through a different lens than Democrats. 

“Republicans generally assess relations through the lens of economic activity. They have a moral outlook that is individualist in tone. People who do better, they think, do better if people are free to do what they want,” he said. 

If the economy is doing well, Patterson continued, then Republicans tend to argue that people don’t need government help.

“This is why Republicans are often less supportive of various government programs. Consequently, they survey the landscape of society and see equality of opportunity, which means that race relations do not need much mending,” said Patterson.

Conversely, Democrats see structural obstacles in the economy that disproportionately affect persons of color. 

“According to them, people need assistance to overcome these obstacles. Because so many of these obstacles seem to affect minorities disproportionately, any fair account of race relations would need to take into consideration the situation in which minorities find themselves and any aid that would be necessary to help them succeed,” said Patterson.

President Donald Trump has seen his approval ratings drop dramatically during the protests. The Real Clear Politics average of Trump’s job approval sits at -12.8 percent, with just 42.5 percent of Americans approving of his job performance. Relatedly, a new national poll found Black Americans favor presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden over Trump by a whopping 92-5 percent margin.

Similarly to the divide on racial issues by party identification, our survey also finds that more conservative Utahns feel the state of race in the U.S. is good, while moderates and liberals believe the opposite. 

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The survey from Y2 Analytics was conducted among 1,188 likely voters from June 9-17, 2020 with a margin of error of 2.9 percent.