Gallup Vault: Racial Strife in the Summer of ’67

Gallup Vault: Racial Strife in the Summer of '67

In the summer of 1967, a season marked by riots in the streets of Newark, New Jersey, and other major cities, one in seven Americans in cities of 1 million residents or more said they expected serious racial trouble in the next six months.

The open-ended explanations that those who foresaw trouble gave for their answers exposed some anxiety about racial relations in the country. George Gallup captured the range of responses to this follow-up question this way: “1. Outside agitators; 2. [Blacks] demanding too much (primarily a white sentiment); 3. Poor living conditions (mentioned by persons of both races); and 4. A tense relationship between [blacks] and the police.” Those who didn’t expect problems (the majority of those surveyed) largely cited good relations between blacks and whites in their community.

Nearly 50 years ago, Americans were searching for solutions as to why the riots were occurring and to find a path forward. A Midwestern homemaker said, “The situation is just about to explode — people are waiting for an incident.” However, a North Carolina resident represented many others who weren’t as concerned by saying, “A lot of people around here are doing their level best to head off trouble.”

Racial riots would continue through the rest of the 1960s, with some of the most pronounced strife occurring after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968. By late May of that year, Gallup reported that 30% in cities of 1 million residents or more believed that there was likely to be trouble in the next six months, a significant jump in this sentiment from the previous year.

Via Gallup