Americans’ anxiety over race relations has risen dramatically during the latter half of President Obama’s presidency. In a new Gallup survey, it was revealed that 35 percent of Americans are worried a “great deal” about racial tension, up from 17 percent in 2014.
In particular, individuals who identify on the left side of politics are most concerned about the degradation of race relations. Forty-two percent of liberals indicated they were greatly concerned, while 28 percent of conservatives acknowledged the same.
The gap is even starker between races. From 2012 to 2014, 31 percent of blacks were concerned about race in America. In the past two years, that number has jumped to 53 percent. For whites, the number of those concerned has risen from 14 to 27 percent.
These unsettling statistics come after a string of incidents over the past two years in which police officers have killed unarmed black men. Many of these deaths resulted in the officers’ use of self-defense, such as the incident in Ferguson, Missouri, when Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown after the latter attacked him and reached for his gun. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding these incidents, however, angry activists have protested nearly any time an involved police officer has been acquitted by a jury, adding more violence to already tragic situations. Protests in Ferguson and Baltimore, for instance, left businesses in flames, while activists in New York and Washington, D.C. have disrupted traffic, forcing highways and bridges to close.
The toxic environment has also spawned the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which has made its loud mark on the 2016 campaign trail. Protesters demanding justice for crimes against blacks have interrupted several presidential rallies. In August, the movement forced Bernie Sanders to shut down his event in Seattle. Then, the activists disrupted Donald Trump rallies in New Orleans and Birmingham, Alabama.
The Clintons are not safe from Black Lives Matter demands either. Over the summer, Hillary got into a heated exchange with one of the activists and, most recently, the group confronted Bill Clinton at an event in Philadelphia.
These hostile exchanges between black and white citizens, coupled with the latest surveys, is not what one would expect in 2016.
As Gallup notes, this poll clearly indicates a “retreat from the optimism” that defined Obama’s 2008 election win.