As Americans head to the polls this November, their values and basic beliefs are more polarized along partisan lines than at any point in the past 25 years. Unlike in 1987, when this series of surveys began, the values gap between Republicans and Democrats is now greater than gender, age, race or class divides.
Whites and Blacks Differ Over Role of Government
The differences in the views and beliefs of blacks and whites today are largely the same as when this project began in 1987. African Americans have consistently been more confident than whites in government’s ability to perform efficiently and more supportive of the social safety net and a larger role for the government in society.
Most notably, 62% of blacks say “we should make every possible effort to improve the position of blacks and other minorities, even if it means giving them preferential treatment.” Just 22% of whites agree. Twenty-five years ago, the gap was almost identical, 64% vs. 16%.
When it comes to the social safety net, 78% of blacks today say “the government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep.” That figure was 80% in 1987. Among whites, 52% agree with this statement today, down slightly from 58% in 1987.
One of the defining values gaps between blacks and whites is over opportunity. Currently, half of blacks say “success in life is determined by forces outside our control,” compared with 31% of whites. Again, these figures are little changed from 25 years ago (49% of blacks, 35% of whites.)