White America Supports Protests—Unless Black People Are Involved

Jun 23, 2015 at 1:59 PM ET

White Americans generally support protesting, except when the people protesting are black, according to a poll published Tuesday.

The nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute polled 1,007 adults nationwide and found that 63 percent of Americans believe that protesting against government injustice is beneficial for the country, but when African Americans are involved, that number dips to 54 percent. The disparity becomes even more drastic among white Americans: 67 percent approve of demonstrations, but less than half of white America, just 48 percent, supports those led by blacks.

“Most white Americans generally believe that protests are good for the country, but they hold significant reservations about protests led by African Americans,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, the CEO of the research nonprofit, in the survey’s press release.

The survey comes at a time when racial tensions are high in America, with demonstrations having happened from coast to coast over the police killings of black men such as Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the racially charged murders of nine black churchgoers shot during a bible study in Charleston, South Carolina. But now, 50 years after some of the Civil Rights Movement’s greatest triumphs, brought about by African-American leaders, half of white Americans are unlikely to support those kinds of protests simply because they see black people doing the demonstrating.