The Pew Research Center asked Americans their view on racial equality in a report released on August 11. 

This year will mark the 60th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963. Respondents were asked about King’s legacy, the country’s progress on racial equality and what needs to change to achieve it.

Of the roughly 5,000 Americans polled, most (81%) said that King had a positive influence on the country, with nearly half (47%) saying he had “a very positive impact.” By comparison, some 53% of African American adults say Martin Luther King Jr. has had “a very positive impact on the country.” This is compared with 46% of both European American and Hispanic adults and 43% of Asian Americans adults.

More than half of Americans (60%) have “heard or read a great deal or a fair amount about” King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Only (38%) say their personal views on racial equality have been impacted by King’s legacy “a great deal or a fair amount.”

A little more than half (52%) of Americans say that “a great deal or a fair amount of progress on racial equality” has been made in the last 60 years. A third of those polled say there’s been some progress and 15% say there has been “not much or no progress at all.” 

Still, more than half of Americans (52%) say attempts to ensure equality for all Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity, “haven’t gone far enough.”  Others say efforts to ensure equality “have gone too far” (20%) or “been about right” (27%).

A majority (58%) of Americans who say efforts to guarantee equality “haven’t gone far enough” don’t believe they will experience racial equality in their lifetime. Those who say efforts “have been about right” are more hopeful with 39% saying racial equality “is extremely or very likely in their lifetime,” 36% saying it is “somewhat likely” and 24% saying “it’s not too or not at all likely.”

Those Americans who say efforts to guarantee racial equality haven’t gone far enough say several systems need to be completely rebuilt to ensure equality,” according to Juliana Menasce Horowitz, associate director of research at the Pew Research Center. At the top of the list is the prison system with 44% of this group saying “it needs to be completely rebuilt.” More than a third say this about policing (38%) and the political system (37%).

When asked about “acceptable ways to protest for racial equality,” 70% of those polled say “marches and demonstrations that don’t disrupt everyday life are always or often acceptable.” Boycotts and sit-ins were viewed as acceptable by 59% and 39% of respondents, respectively. 

A smaller group (13%) say that “activities that disrupt everyday life, such as shutting down streets or traffic” are acceptable. While 5% of Americans say that “actions that result in damage to public or private property” are acceptable.

The margin of error is plus or minus 1.7 percentage points. To read the full report, click here.

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