Fresh off national and local protests in the wake of the recorded killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, in Minneapolis, nearly three-quarters of Arkansas voters say racism is a significant problem for the state.
A Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey of 869 likely Arkansas voters showed that nearly half view racism as a “big problem,” while another quarter said it was “somewhat of a problem.”
Q: In your opinion, how big a problem is racism in our society today? Is it a big problem, somewhat of a problem, a small problem, or not a problem at all?
47% Big problem
26.5% Somewhat of a problem
17.5% Small problem
7% Not a problem
When asked if police officers treat blacks or whites similarly or differently, survey respondents said:
Q: In general, do you think that police in most communities treat black people better than white people, treat white people better than black people, or treat white and black people equally?
49.5% Treat white people better
41% Treat white and black people equally
2% Treat black people better
Finally, voters were asked about the recent street protests and their concerns about racial injustice and police behavior versus violence and property damage at the protests.
Q: Thinking about the death of George Floyd and the recent protests occurring across the country, which concerns you more: racial injustice and the actions of the police surrounding the death of George Floyd, or instances of violence or property damage at some of the recent protests?
47% Racial injustice and police behavior
46.5% Violence and property damage at protests
“The two big takeaways for me from these numbers are that one, voters recognize there is a major problem with racism in this country. Only 7% said it’s not an issue. Two, half believe that there is unfair treatment between blacks and whites. With the breakout of our population by race, this clearly highlights black and white voters recognize the problem. You can’t address a problem without recognition of it, and I think we’re ready to see some constructive discussions for the first time in years on this long-volatile subject,” said Roby Brock, Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief.
Tamika Edwards, director of the Social Justice Institute at Philander Smith College and a Talk Business & Politics contributor, was interviewed on the poll’s results, which you can view here.
Robert Coon, managing partner with Impact Management Group, also helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:
“57% of Arkansas voters believe that racism is a big problem in our society today, with 24% saying it’s ‘somewhat of a problem’. 81% of black voters indicated that racism was a ‘big problem’ while a plurality of white voters (44%) agreed. As with other issues tested in this survey, notable differences emerged along party and gender lines. 90% of Democrats said that racism was a ‘big problem’ compared to only 15% of Republicans, with Independents in between at 43%. While a majority of women (55%) said racism was a ‘big problem’, only 39% of men shared the same view. When asked for their views on how police treat white and black people comparatively, 50% said white people were treated better while 41% said whites and blacks were treated the same. As with views on racism in our society, Democrats largely indicated white people were treated better (89%), Republicans viewed treatment as equal (72%), and Independents fell in between with 53% saying white people were treated better. A majority of women said white people were treated better (53%) while men were split.”
Dr. Jay Barth, emeritus professor of politics at Hendrix College, helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:
“On the question of whether the racial injustice being protested or the protests themselves that have on occasion turned violent is more troubling, Arkansans are split right down the middle. In addition to a partisan divide on this issue (with Republicans more troubled by the violence of the protests while Democrats have more unease about the racial injustice driving the protests) divisions by age and gender are particularly telling. Majorities of those under 45 are more concerned about the racially-motivated police violence while older Arkansans are concerned about the violence shown by some protestors. A majority of women (54%) are more concerned about the police violence while a majority of men (53%) are more concerned about the property damage and violence that accompanied protests.
“Still, Arkansans as a group see the critiques of racism in American life and law as thoroughly legitimate. Just under half of voters see racism as a “big problem” in the country and fewer than one in four Arkansas voters sees it as a “small” or nonexistent problem. Those who are most alarmed by the lingering impact of racism are younger voters, voters of color, women, and Democratic voters. Relatedly, just at half of those surveyed recognize that police treat white residents better than they do Black individuals with whom they interact. Again, the same patterns in the attitudes among subgroups of Arkansas voters show themselves on this question. Race has been a guiding force in Arkansas since the time of the state’s creation as a state where slavery was legal. Never before have the state’s white residents been as clear on racism’s damaging impact than at present and the fact that younger voters are most clear in this view suggests that conversations about race and racism are more likely to predominate in the years to come.”
This survey of 869 likely Arkansas voters was conducted June 9-10, 2020, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.3%. Respondents were contacted via text message and given a unique link to complete the survey online.
Under 30 4.2%
Between 30-44 24.2%
Between 45-64 43.1%
65 and over 28.5%
Native American 1.5%
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