Whites surprised by poll showing Blacks more hopeful

(l-r) Lissa Jones, Terrall Lewis, April Graves, Tom Weber (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

A new Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) poll reveals that Black Minnesotans are more hopeful for the future. The MPR poll was this month’s topic at the January 4 monthly Hawthorne Huddle morning meeting at Farview Park in North Minneapolis.

Last August and early September of last year, MPR News and its sister organization, APM Research Lab, surveyed 1,654 Minnesota residents and found that most Minnesotans believe the state is on the right track.

“Overwhelmingly, Minnesotans are hopeful,” MPR host Tom Weber said last week. But he and other MPR staffers were taken aback to learn from the poll results that 92 percent of Blacks surveyed were more “generally hopeful” compared to 82 percent of Whites. “We were very surprised,” he noted.

MPR News Executive Editor Mike Edgerly told the MSR that the 2016 general election results prompted the poll. “We long wanted to know about Minnesota and its people, what are people thinking and why are they voting the way they are,” he pointed out. “The poll seemed a good way for us to gain a better understanding” of the state, Edgerly said. “We gained some greater understanding, not just about the African American community, but about Minnesota in general.”


“We [as Blacks] consider ourselves Minnesotans. We don’t necessarily get treated like it.”


Weber and KMOJ’s Lissa Jones co-hosted the 90-minute Farview event, attended by about 30 people. April Graves of the Minneapolis Health Department and Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board’s Terrall Lewis were invited as panelists to the “community conversation on hope in North Minneapolis.”

“It’s been a necessity to be hopeful, not a choice,” Graves stressed. “What’s the alternative to no hope? Hope really expects change is possible and things can get better.”

“The reason why we’re hopeful is, what else we got?” Lewis added. “I’m hopeful because we are in perpetual creating mode.”

“Hope provides us with the ability to get up and move,” Jones pointed out. She and Weber invited questions and comments from the audience.

James Everett stated that Blacks in Minnesota tend to be more hopeful, especially those who relocated here from other parts of the country, or from places they consider “in dire straits.”

“It’s not so much hope,” Everett contended. “We [as Blacks] consider ourselves Minnesotans. We don’t necessarily get treated like it.”

Lewis later told the MSR the poll results might be different if the young people he regularly works with were asked. Many don’t see hope in their current circumstances, he pointed out.

The MPR poll mirrors similar national surveys that also show Blacks as more optimistic than Whites, Weber reported. “We don’t hear that in day-to-day conversations, especially in the media,” he said. “As a White American, the hope surprised me. I don’t have that perspective to understand” what happens to Black people in this country, noted the public radio host. “I was of the assumption that Black Minnesotans just look at their history…and their [poll response] numbers would be down. It was a learning moment for me.”

“We’re surprised that you’re surprised,” Lewis told Weber upon hearing this.

“Healing also is part of hope,” Graves continued. “The things that have hurt us we can heal from, individually and collectively. We actually can become stronger because of these things.”

When Weber asked if Whites have the same capacity of hope as Blacks, Graves replied, “There is much to be learned from the Black experience.” She later told the MSR, “If we can get White folk to have more hope, it would be good for all of us. Hope is something we can use.”

The MPR poll also found that Twin Cities residents and Minnesotans of color in general are less trusting of law enforcement than other Minnesotans by a two-to-one margin. “This is nothing new,” Lewis said matter-of-factly.

Weber later told the MSR that last week’s meeting, which was taped and broadcast on MPR earlier this week, was “a concerted effort” to bring such issues to its audience. “Our audience is still largely White,” but “I want to make sure we have a conversation” on the poll.

“I think there are a lot of people who don’t think about this question a lot. If you’re White, the results may surprise you, but there are reasons why it shouldn’t.”

“I was excited to be asked to be part of it,” Graves concluded. “I think it was a conversation worth having.”


Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.