Twenty-four months after President Obama was sworn in as American's first African-American president, 1,006 people of all races responding to an online survey by The Root are at times sharply divided on his achievements, and particularly on the racial climate in the country:
* While just 15 percent of whites believe that hate crimes, police brutality and injustice against African Americans have increased since Obama took office, 40 percent of blacks say such crimes have increased.
* Seventy-five percent of blacks and 62 percent of whites said that Obama was addressing their needs. Twenty-nine percent of whites said that he was not, compared with just 15 percent of blacks.
Black Response on Whether Needs Are Being Met by Obama
White Response on Whether Needs Are Being Met by Obama
* The media apparently had a stronger impact on how whites see President Obama, compared with blacks. Sixty-five percent of whites said that their perception of him is influenced by the media, compared with 40 percent of blacks. Fifty-six percent of blacks claimed that the media had not influenced their perceptions "at all," versus 36 percent of whites who claimed the same immunity.
The president's approval numbers have surged in the time since his administration pushed through a blitz of legislation last December and he made that powerful speech in Tucson. That lift was reflected in our poll.
Black Response on the Obama Administration's Effectiveness
White Response on Obama Administration's Effectiveness
* Majorities of both blacks and whites agreed (94 percent and 72 percent, respectively) that "racism plays a role in how President Obama is perceived." One African-American respondent expressed the majority sentiment, praising the president for "the dignity he has brought back to the office of the presidency, despite the obstacles put up by the Republican Party and their racially motivated allies, who would prefer to bring the country to its knees than to see a black president succeed."
* Both whites and blacks said they expected the president to win a second term; 91 percent of blacks said that he was either "very" or "somewhat likely" to be re-elected, compared with 80 percent of whites who responded to the survey.
Black and white respondents found common ground in the priorities they wanted President Obama to address: Health care reform and economic policy ranked as the top two. Where blacks and whites differed was on the importance of education.
* Three times as many blacks (12 percent) as whites (4 percent) rated education as "important" to them.
* Four in 10 in both groups saw either no improvement or a decline in the quality of education as a result of the president's Race to the Top initiative, although a larger number of blacks than whites (38 percent versus 24 percent, respectively) saw some educational gains.
Perceptions of the economy and opportunities within it were also similar in both groups:
* Blacks and whites were nearly in agreement (37.5 percent and 40.6 percent, respectively) that opportunities for jobs and career advancement had improved for African Americans under Obama's administration, compared with that of President George W. Bush.
* However, far more blacks felt negatively about employment opportunities (32 percent) for African Americans under Obama than did whites (18.5 percent).
Maybe it's an indication of the time, or the fact that a black man is in the White House, but just 4.5 percent of African-American respondents to our survey listed civil rights policy as a priority. Just 1 percent of whites rated civil rights as important.
On programs that directly benefit African Americans — a subject that the Obama administration has considered sensitive — a small majority of whites (52 percent) backed the $850 million package of support for historically black colleges and universities. Of course, black support for this program was significantly stronger (85.6 percent).
The survey was conducted online between Jan. 14 and Jan. 16. Participants were self-selecting, which means the results are not as scientifically verifiable as a random survey. The survey was closed after the goal of 1,000 respondents was exceeded. Of the 1,006 participants, 421 identified themselves as African American; 386 identified as white; 41 indicated that they were Hispanic (which can be of any race); 15 identified as Asian; 58 said they were of mixed racial background; and the rest either indicated another race, no race or did not answer the question.
Joel Dreyfuss is managing editor of The Root.