White and Black Americans’ perceptions of race relations and the circumstances around George Floyd’s death remain split, a new poll has found.
Ahead of the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis Police officer charged with the murder of George Floyd, a USA Today/Ipsos poll explored America’s views on race, policing and Floyd’s killing.
The poll was conducted March 1 and 2 and based on a nationally representative sample of 1,165 people ages 18 and older. The poll findings come just days before the one-year anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s death in Louisville, Kentucky.
When asked about Floyd’s death, 64% of Black people described it as a murder, according to the poll. Among White respondents, 28% described it as murder and 33% said “it was negligence on part of the officer.”
Clifford Young, president of public affairs in the United States for Ipsos, said the contrast in responses extends to nearly every question in the survey.
“Black Americans, for instance, and minorities in general are still super focused on this issue. It hasn’t gone away. It can’t go away because they live with it every day,” Young said.
USA Today/Ipsos conducted a similar poll in June as protests condemning police brutality took place across the United States. Last year, 60% of all respondents described Floyd’s death as murder. That number dropped to 36% in the latest poll.
Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes while Floyd pleaded, “I can’t breathe.” His death sparked a worldwide movement and America became the epicenter of a racial reckoning.
In the months that followed, people protested in the streets and headed to the polls with Black, Latino and Native Americans voters flipping some states blue during the presidential election.
More recently, critics saw White privilege in the police response to the US Capitol insurrectionists compared to the response to protests over Floyd’s death.
After months of racial reckoning, views over whether race relations have changed are also divided.
Overall, more Americans (47%) believe race relations have neither improved nor worsened in the past year, the poll shows. But 40% said they feel race relations actually worsened and only 13% said they had improved.
Among Black Americans, 54% say race relations have worsened in the past year, while 10% believe they have improved. But more White Americans (51%) feel they have neither improved nor worsened and 35% said they have worsened, according to the poll.
Young said researchers were surprised by the results of the poll, which, he says, shows that racial justice is no longer “front and center” in many people’s minds, especially for those who are not impacted daily.
“It’s disheartening,” Young said.
“What was very clear for us is that when it comes to racial justice issues, it’s sort of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for most Americans,” he added. “In other words, either there’s an acute problem like the George Floyd killing that brings to the forefront the issue and everyone pays attention, but if not, it’s sort of recede in the memory and people focus on other things.”