Americans' views on Martin Luther King's legacy and dreams in 2023

Linley SandersData Journalist
January 12, 2023, 7:44 PM GMT+0

Ahead of Martin Luther King Day, the Economist/YouGov Poll asked Americans about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of racial equality and his "I Have a Dream" speech.

By a ratio of two to one (69% to 31%), Americans believe King's “I Have a Dream” speech that spoke of racial equality in the U.S. is still relevant today. Majorities of Democrats (80%) and Republicans (58%) say it is still topical, though 42% of Republicans say it is not. Black Americans (69%) and white Americans (72%) are similarly likely to say King's famous speech still matters.

Half of Americans say race relations in the U.S. today are generally good (51%), with 50% of white Americans and 54% of Black Americans agreeing. Four in 10 Americans say that most of Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of racial equality has been achieved today, with 34% saying that only some of the dream has been realized. Republicans and older Americans are more likely than Democrats and younger Americans to say that quite a bit or a great deal of King's dream has been accomplished.

King advocated for peaceful, non-violent protests to address systematic inequality. More than one-third of Americans (36%) say that protests are necessary today in order to achieve racial equality, a sentiment that is stronger among Democrats (64%), Black Americans (58%), and 18- to 29-year-olds (48%).

While relatively few Americans (16%) say that we have already achieved racial equality, about half (48%) say protests don't make significant progress toward racial equality. Majorities of Republicans (63%), white Americans (55%), and Americans who are 65 and older (59%) say the same.

— Taylor Orth contributed to this article

See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on January 7 - 10, 2023 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens.

Methodology: Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to June 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (34% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

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