In the poll, conducted from March 28 to April 3, 36 percent of responders said they considered racism and intolerance to be an “imminent threat” to the US, the worst possible rating. When the same question was asked two years ago, 29 percent answered in the same fashion.
The poll suggests that the numbers reflect anxieties fueled by the excessive use of deadly force by police against black men and the election of Donald Trump, who singled out immigrants and Muslims as threats to the US during his campaign, as president. "People are more concerned about racism and bigotry in the US after watching a brutal presidential campaign that tested racial attitudes and highly publicized confrontations between police and African Americans," it reads.
The deaths of Aiyana Jones, Mike Brown, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd and other unarmed black US citizens at the hands of police caused widespread protests across the country in 2015 and 2016, fueling what became known as the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Trump trafficked plainly in anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric on the campaign trail, with him calling Mexican immigrants rapists, drug dealers and criminals. His infamous proposal to block the flow of undocumented immigrants to the US by building a wall along the US/Mexico border is beginning to take shape under his administration.
Within his first 100 days of office, Trump tried twice to institute a travel ban against several Muslim-majority countries, an effort his administration called a measure to prevent terrorism.
The Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and other civil rights organizations have reported an increase in racist attacks and harassment since the launch of the Trump campaign. His pronouncements are credited with emboldening a wave of white supremacists and white nationalists of different stripes now collectively referred to as the "Alt-right."
In one incident in Kentucky, "A man received a letter at home (saying) ‘The most important thing is for our children to grow up in a pure white Christian environment,'" the SPLC recently reported. "It's not clear why you would have a N**** B**** in your house. We believe all races should be separate in the United States of America," the letter continued.
Twenty-nine-year-old Tiffany Cartagena told Reuters she’s noticed a significant uptick in open racism, saying, "I’ve seen a lot of people become more bold with their hatred and discrimination."
Unsurprisingly, Republicans did not see racism and bigotry as as much of a concern as Democrats did, though both parties showed an increase in concern about racism over the 2015 poll.
Clifton McMillan Jr., a 31-year-old African American who works in Helena, Alabama, said, "People talk to me differently since the election, I get different looks, different comments … A lot of people are on edge."