WASHINGTON — A vast majority of white Americans say there should not be reparations for African-American descendants of slaves, but more than half of blacks say it’s a good idea and Hispanics are almost evenly split, according to a new poll.
Time may bring about a shift in those numbers: More than half of millennials questioned say they are willing to at least consider the idea of paying reparations to the descendants of slaves.
The Exclusive Point Taken-Marist Poll was released Wednesday in conjunction with the PBS debate series “Point Taken.”
Overall, 68 percent of Americans say that reparations should not be paid to descendants of slaves, according to the poll.
Among the races polled, 81 percent of white Americans said no to reparations for slave descendants, the highest number among all races. The numbers were much closer among blacks and Hispanics, with 58 percent of blacks supporting reparations and 35 percent against the idea. Hispanic Americans were almost evenly divided, with 47 percent against and 46 percent for providing money for slave descendants.
The numbers shift when age is taken into account, with the idea more popular with younger Americans.
Americans over age 69 say by an 80-12 margin that reparations should not be paid to those related to slaves. Baby boomers between ages 51-69 are similar, with a 79-17 percent margin against reparations.
The numbers start changing when it comes to Generation Xers, with Americans between the ages of 35-50 breaking 73 percent to 25 percent against reparations. The biggest shift comes with millennials, with a majority — 51 percent — saying that reparations should be paid or they were unsure of whether reparations should be paid. Forty percent of millennials were in favor of reparations and 11 percent were unsure, compared with the 49 percent of the millennials questioned who said reparations should not be paid to slave descendants.
“Maybe there’s yet a different moment for this conversation given the increasing ascendency of millennials in society and culture,” said Carlos Watson, who hosts “Point Taken.”
Researchers say the differences in opinion may have something to do with the increasing diversity of millennials. According to the Census Bureau, millennials are more diverse than the generations that preceded them, with 44.2 percent being part of a minority race or ethnic group.
Conversations around reparations have increased lately, with the U.N. Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent recommending in January that the United States consider reparations to African-American descendants of slavery.
“The colonial history, the legacy of enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism and racial inequality in the U.S. remains a serious challenge as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent,” the U.N. report said.
The poll of 1,221 people 18 and older was conducted by telephone April 27-28 and May 2-4. Results for the survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.