George Floyd was accused of buying cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Breonna Taylor was asleep in her bed. Tamir Rice was playing in a park. Police killed them. We say their names, and the names of so many—too many—others, to condemn the brutal and deadly racism that exists in the United States, to demand change, and to remember and give voice to these individuals.
As we reflect on racism and anti-racism, the Roper Center has identified and is making available all public opinion surveys of Black Americans in the Roper data archive. We highlight these surveys of Black Americans, which span from 1945 to 2020, in order to remember and amplify the voices of these individuals. We are also making more than eight decades of public opinion data on how the U.S. public views Black America available. These data provide historical insight into how racial attitudes have changed in the United States and how the public currently views topics such as police brutality, race relations, and Black Lives Matter. We are making all of the data, which can be accessed below, freely available to the public. If you are not a Roper Center member, contact Data Services to request access.
We are also partnering with the Cornell Center for Social Sciences to convert 14 public opinion surveys of Black Americans during the 1970s from column binary (based on IBM punch cards) to modern data formats. Because these data have been stored in column binary format, which is incompatible with modern statistical software, the views and opinions of these individuals have been concealed for more than 40 years. To protect respondents, survey data are anonymous, but the role of public opinion polling has always been to provide a voice to the people. This project will help ensure that today’s scholars and future generations remember these voices.
The historical overview below also recognizes the pioneering survey research of W.E.B. Du Bois, periods when survey research omitted or minimized the voices of Black Americans, and U.S. government surveys of other countries which aimed to assess international awareness of segregation and oppression in the United States. We hope this collection advances historical knowledge, amplifies Black public opinion, and proclaims Black Lives Matter.
Peter K. Enns
Executive Director, Roper Center for Public Opinion Research