Loyola Marymount University’s Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles released its public opinion survey results, “30 Years Later – Angeleno Opinions on Race Relations,” revealing that the usually optimistic civic attitude among city residents has taken a pessimistic turn in the past five years.
The number of respondents who think the city of Los Angeles is going in the right direction dropped by 20 percentage points in 2017-22, from the prior five-year reporting period. While a higher percentage of L.A. residents still have a positive view of race relations in the city, two-thirds of respondents said riots or disturbances similar to 1992 were more likely in the next five years.
Respondents saying a similar riot would happen in the next five years dropped gradually over time from 65 percent in 1997 down to 47 percent in 2012. “Then came the results from 2017 and the trend was reversing. We had hoped it was an anomaly, but it wasn’t, not even close,” said Brianne Gilbert, managing director of the center and senior lecturer in urban and environmental studies and political science. “Now a full 68 percent of residents in Los Angeles think something like what happened in 1992 could happen again.”
A greater number of residents say race relations in their neighborhood have gotten worse, however a bright spot in the findings is that significantly higher percentages across ethnic groups responded that ethnic relations are somewhat well as opposed to somewhat bad.
“After years of surveys showing positive trends, in 2022 we see a clear and dramatic drop in how race relations are perceived in Los Angeles,” said Fernando Guerra, director of the center and professor of political science and Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies. “Angelenos haven’t been this negative about racial tensions, or more likely to predict disturbances, since we began asking these questions in 1997.”
Results are from the 2022 Los Angeles Public Opinion Survey and the ongoing Los Angeles Riot Anniversary Study conducted by StudyLA, which involved 20-minute telephone sessions and online and face-to-face surveys. For this portion of the study, the responses from 1,000 city of Los Angeles residents are provided (2,002 respondents were surveyed countywide). The survey was conducted in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Korean from Jan. 4 to Feb. 10, 2022, and respondents were asked a range of questions about quality-of-life perceptions and various civic issues. The margin of error is ±3.0% for the entire sample. Researchers with StudyLA have asked the same questions about race relations in Los Angeles every five years since 1997, to take the city’s pulse on these key issues in the aftermath of the 1992 unrest that followed the Rodney King verdict. These surveys document the trends in residents’ attitudes toward race relations in the city post-1992. In each survey between 600–1,600 randomly selected and ethnically represented residents answered questions. Approximately 25 percent of the respondents were Black; 25 percent were Asian; 25 percent Latino; and 25 percent white.