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New Survey Shows Southerners Remain Divided Despite Some Past Movement On Systemic Racism

New Survey Shows Southerners Remain Divided Despite Some Past Movement On Systemic Racism

White Southerners Appear More Motivated to Vote With Weeks to Go, Black Southerners Show Hesitance on COVID-19 Vaccine

PR Newswire

NEW ORLEANS, Oct. 21, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- A new survey from Mitch Landrieu's E Pluribus Unum (EPU) organization finds major divides by race on a range of issues and perspectives, including attitudes on COVID-19 vaccine usage, how to address the pandemic, causes of poverty, equality of opportunity, access to healthcare, whether systemic racism exists and race relations.

With the backdrop of the upcoming election amidst the coronavirus pandemic, economic uncertainty and the nation's racial reckoning, EPU commissioned the 1,800-person survey (600 Black respondents, Latino respondents and white respondents each) to track attitudes on race, class and equity, as well as pertinent national issues and policies in the South. This is the third in a series of surveys by EPU focused on the American South, the first of which was released in October 2019. A second survey with a focus on the coronavirus pandemic was released in June 2020.

"On the eve of the 2020 election, the racial divide in the American South is very clear and serves as a stark reminder of the challenge facing our country," said Mitch Landrieu, founder and president of E Pluribus Unum and former mayor of New Orleans. "From policy priorities to views on police reform and systemic racism, Black, white and Latino residents hold very different perspectives that shape the challenges facing the United States. This is not new. And we know from EPU's ongoing work that common interests and compassion do exist across race, but the data underscore the hard work that needs to continue as America enters a new chapter."

While the June 2020 survey found major shifts among white Southerners on issues related to systemic racism in the wake of the pandemic's disparate impacts and the murder of George Floyd, this survey finds that some attitudes have reverted to previously held views. Meanwhile, Black respondents express increased concerns over race relations and national priorities. The survey, taken as voting begins across many Southern states, found that the stark racial differences on attitudes toward racism, policing and other issues get blurred when taking partisanship into account. Democrats across race share common views, and the same holds true for Republicans across race. That is, Black Democrats have similar attitudes to white and Latino Democrats, and white Republicans have similar attitudes to Latino Republicans. Educational attainment is another demographic where the racial divide narrows, but not nearly as much as party identification. Select key findings are listed below.

COVID-19 in the South

  • When asked if they plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available, just 27% of Black respondents said "yes" with 58% saying "no". Latino respondents were nearly evenly split, with 43% saying "yes" and 45% saying "no". Among white respondents, 51% agreed to getting the vaccine when it is available compared to the 34% who said "no". Among those who said they would not get the vaccine, Black residents were more likely (54%) to attribute this to not trusting this particular vaccine than an anti-vaccine posture overall. A plurality and a majority of white and Latino respondents, respectively, who said they wouldn't take the vaccine said it was because they don't trust vaccines in general.

2020 Elections

  • When asked which two issues are most important in determining their vote, Black Southerners overwhelmingly named racial justice (49%) and the coronavirus pandemic (44%). White and Latino respondents selected the pandemic and the economy as their top choices. Healthcare was the third choice among all races. Interestingly, the education level of the respondents did not impact the issue prioritization.

Race Relations and Systemic Racism

  • There remain clear racial divides in opinion regarding the causes of socioeconomic disparities in America. Even though large racial gaps remain regarding the causes for living in poverty, there has been a striking movement among white Southerners' views since our initial survey 12 months ago. A majority of white respondents (51%) now attribute poverty to a lack of opportunity rather than poor life choices. This is considerably less than Black respondents at 78%, but it marks a very striking shift among white respondents over the past 12 months (from -2 to +10 lack of opportunity/poor life choices). This shift is less dramatic than what we saw in June, though the 51% of white respondents attributing poverty to lack of opportunity remains the same. Over the same period, Black and Latino respondents are much more likely to cite "lack of opportunity" as the cause compared to "poor life choices." Women, non-college educated and younger respondents are driving the changes among the white residents.

Police Reform

  • There's a wide racial gap on the question of who is responsible for the deaths of Black men and women in police custody. A plurality of white respondents (39%) believe it is the behavior of individuals in police custody themselves most responsible. A plurality of both Black and Latino respondents said a "racist police system" is most responsible (42% of Black and 31% of Latino respondents), though Latino respondents' views were mixed.

Landrieu closed, "Despite the many divisions and clear challenges to bridge racial differences, the survey reveals some hopeful trends to build upon, including notable movement across all three racial groups on how U.S. leaders should approach the pandemic recovery and racial inequities. We have a lot of work ahead and E Pluribus Unum stands ready to help close these gaps."

A comprehensive analysis of the E Pluribus Unum's third Southern Survey is available at

GBAO Strategies of Washington, D.C. conducted the survey on landlines, cellphones, and an online panel from October 7-12, 2020. Latino respondents were given the option of taking the survey in English or Spanish. The margin of error for each racial group is +/- 4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.


Founded by former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu in 2018, E Pluribus Unum (EPU) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to build a more just, equitable, and inclusive South, uprooting the barriers that have long divided the region by race and class. Incubated at Emerson Collective, EPU is focused on changing the divisive narratives that perpetuate systemic and interpersonal racism, cultivating and empowering courageous leaders who are advancing racial equity, and championing transformative policy change. Learn more at


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SOURCE E Pluribus Unum

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