Gallup: a “Split Review” on Civil Rights

Posted January 21, 2008 at 10:56am

Gallup marks the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday with a poll on civil rights. When asked if the “MLK and 1960s civil rights movement” goals have been achieved, 43 percent agreed that all of most had been achieved, 54 percent said “only some/almost none” and 3 percent had no opinion. This is a significant and upbeat change from a similar question posed in January, 1997 , when only 26 percent agreed with the “all or most” category.

But when Gallup broke down the results into white and black respondents, whites were much more certain than blacks that all or most of the civil rights goals had been reached – 45 percent to 29 percent.

Gallup also takes the occasion to note the sharp change in American attitudes about Dr. King over the decades. In 1963, Gallup notes: “one month after King penned his open Letter From Birmingham Jail, in which he argued that ‘one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.’ In that 1963 survey, Gallup found nearly as many Americans holding an unfavorable view of King (37%) as held a favorable view (41%).”

But in 1999, two-thirds of Americans said King was their “most admired” or “admired” person of the 20th century, 22 percent said they somewhat admired him and 10 percent said they did not admire him.

Today’s poll was conducted Jan. 17-19, 2008. The margin of error for the entire poll and for the white respondents was 2 percent. Because the sample size of black respondents was smaller, the margin of error for that subset was 8 percent.