A majority of Americans now say that race relations in the United States are bad, according to the latest NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll, which showed the most pessimistic assessment of racial issues in almost two decades.
In the wake of protests over the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police, just four in ten Americans told pollsters that they believe race relations in the United States are "good," while 57 percent disagreed. And nearly a quarter—23 percent—classified the current state of the country's racial issues as "very bad."
The data showed a dramatic slide from just 18 months ago, when a July 2013 poll indicated that a majority—52 percent—offered an optimistic view of race relations. And throughout President Barack Obama's first term in the White House, more than seven in ten Americans said race relations were good, with a record 77 percent giving a positive assessment shortly after Obama's election as the first black president.
The recent data most closely matches a NBC/WSJ survey in October 1995, the same month that a jury acquitted black football star O.J. Simpson in the murder of his ex-wife. The verdict—decided by a nearly all-black jury— prompted a national debate about Simpson's innocence, exposing a sharp split between many white and black observers.
In that poll 34 percent of adults said that race relations were good, versus 61 percent who called them bad.
Like in 1995, both white and black survey respondents in the recent poll express pessimism about the current state of race relations.