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Lifeway Research Survey Finds Majority of Pastors Agree Racial Reconciliation Is Mandated by the Gospel

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Most Americans Say U. S. Has Come Far on Racial Relations, But We Still Have So Far to Go

Race relations in America are better than they used to be. And most Americans see diversity as a good thing, a new LifeWay Research study shows.

But there’s still a long way to go, according to two new surveys from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

Researchers asked 1,000 Americans and 1,000 Protestant pastors about their views on race relations. They found many Americans have mixed feelings about the state of racial diversity in the United States.

Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research, says Americans are still adapting to the nation’s demographic shifts.

In 1960, 89 percent of Americans were white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Today, America is much more diverse. Fewer than two-thirds of Americans — and just over half of schoolchildren — are Non-Hispanic whites. By 2050, no one group will be a majority.

That’s a big change that Americans are still trying to sort through, McConnell says. The fallout from the deaths of Mike Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York has increased tension about racial relations.

“Recent high profile cases highlight the lack of understanding, respect, and trust that remains between races,” he said.

Among the research findings:

Eight in 10 Americans (82 percent) say racial diversity is good for the country. One in 7 (14 percent) disagree.

Three quarters of Americans (74 percent) agree with the statement, “We have come so far on racial relations.” About a quarter disagree (23 percent).

But few are satisfied with the state of race relations. Eight in 10 (81 percent) agree with the statement, “We’ve got so far to go on racial relations.” One in 6 (16 percent) disagree.

LifeWay Research found support across ethnic groups for the statement, “We’ve come so far on racial relations.” Three quarters of whites (74 percent), African-Americans (74 percent) and Hispanic-Americans (73 percent) all agree.

However, McConnell says, some Africans-Americans take issue with that statement. One in 6 (17 percent) strongly disagree, compared to 11 percent of whites and 5 percent of Hispanics.

There are similar differences in intensity of responses to the statement, “We’ve got so far to go on racial relations.”

Fifty-seven percent of African-Americans strongly agree. That drops to 39 percent of whites and 42 percent of Hispanics.

Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, said, “On the surface, most Americans agree that racial reconciliation matters. But we’re divided about how important this issue is. For many white Americans, progress on issues of race is a good thing but not urgent. For many African-Americans, it’s front and center.”

Younger Americans — those 18 to 24 –are the most optimistic about race relations. Almost 9 in 10 (88 percent) say diversity is good for the country. And most (84 percent) agree with the statement, “We’ve come so far on racial relations.”

Older Americans are a bit more skeptical. About three quarters (76 percent) of those over 65 say diversity is good for the country. Seven out of 10 (71 percent) of those 45 to 54 say the nation has come far on racial relations.

Whites (85 percent) are more likely to agree that diversity is good for the country than African-Americans (75 percent) or Hispanic-Americans (74 percent). Christians (80 percent) are less likely than the Nones (89 percent) to see diversity as a good thing.

As other polls have shown, LifeWay Research found few Americans believe race relations have improved since the election of President Barack Obama. About half (49 percent) say race relations have stayed the same. Three in 10 (29 percent) believe relations are more strained. About 1 of 7 (15 percent) say things have improved.

About a quarter of African Americans (23 percent) say relations have improved since Obama’s election. That drops to 1 in 7 (14 percent) for whites.

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Bob Smietana