Researchers at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Institute on Race and Ethnicity published results of its annual racial attitudes survey Monday. The report included 18,000 Pulaski County blacks, Hispanics, and whites, who were asked about their beliefs and priorities on issues related family, values, and community.
The survey found Hispanics place particular value on the institution of marriage relative to the other groups. African-Americans indicated a greater commitment to both a career and religious life compared to white residents.
“That was interesting, being in the Bible Belt, and religion seeming to be such a part of the overall culture, that one particular ethnicity or geo-racial group tended to rank that significantly higher than the two others,” said Dr. Michael Twyman, director of the Institute.
Eighty-one percent of Little Rock blacks, and 74 percent of blacks outside Little Rock said religious life was very important, compared to 52 percent of whites in Little Rock, and 68 percent outside.
The survey also asked about same-sex marriage. While 25 percent of Little Rock whites were in support, 14 percent of Hispanics and six percent of blacks approved. Half of blacks and whites outside of Little Rock disapproved, just one third of Hispanics on the outskirts did.
Among panelists, Paul Kelly, of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said he thinks attitudes towards same-sex marriage are changing rapidly across social sectors.
“Hundreds of thousands of families have had to deal with this individually in their own homes and have had to confront it and accept it and deal with it," said Kelly.
When asked about recent incidents of police-involved shootings of unarmed black men around the country, 62 percent of whites outside Little Rock thought public reactions to the incidents were overblown.
Keesa Smith of the Arkansas Department of Human Services said, as an African-American who sometimes gets angry when she talks about police shootings, she understands the conversations have been difficult.
“I think that it is critically important but it is a very, very hard discussion to have. So that is why I think there is a population that can say yes, 'I think African-Americans are being treated unfairly,' but not want to hear repeatedly about the situations that are happening because it is hard to make sense of them and it is hard to discuss,” she said.
Dr. Twyman explained in an interview he hopes the information will lead to better policy.
“I think from a policy perspective it helps us get a better grasp on how we provide culturally sensitive services and how we also develop policies that are accommodating to ever-changing American families.”
The survey also includes information on grandparents raising grandchildren in the United States, as well as respondents' thoughts about inter-racial marriage.