Race relations: how have things changed since the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
May 25, 2021, 8:25 AM UTC

The population in general are more likely than they were to think things are getting worse – bringing their views into line with Britons from ethnic minority communities

One year ago today, George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.

Twelve months on, Floyd has near-universal name recognition in Britain. Fully 92% of Britons say they know his name and why he was in the news. This includes 90% of all Britons from ethnic minority backgrounds, rising to 97% among Black Britons.

Floyd’s death sparked civil unrest across the United States, and kickstarted nationwide protests here in the UK as well. Almost a year since those rallies, which saw protestors topple the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, how do Britons think the course of race relations has been affected?

Among the wider British population, many people think that race relations in the UK have taken a turn for the worse since the Black Lives Matter protests. Whereas one in five (19%) think that prior to the protests race relations were deteriorating, that figure is 36% for the period since that point.

This brings the wider population in line with Britain’s ethnic minority population, of whom 33% think race relations have been worsening since the spate of protests a year ago. What is notable, however, is that this doesn’t represent a change in opinion among BAME Britons, with 31% saying the same of the period before the protests.

The story is the same among Black Britons specifically – 30% thought things were getting worse prior to the protests, 28% say the same of the time since.

The largest portion of each group (41% of all Britons, 42% of BAME Britons, 49% of Black Britons) think that the state of race relations has remained largely the same since the Black Lives Matter protests. Only 8% of the general population, 11% of all ethnic minority Britons and 13% of Black Britons think things have become better.

Four in ten Black Britons are following news stories of race issues “very closely”

Since Floyd’s murder, the topic of racial inequalities has received much greater prominence in the media on both sides of the Atlantic.

Here in Britain, half (52%) say they have been closely following stories about race issues relating to the UK, with 44% saying the same of stories of goings on in the USA. However, only 10% and 7% respectively say they have been following such stories “very closely”.

Britain’s BAME population are paying much closer attention to the news. Close to three quarters (72%) say they are closely following news about race issues in the UK (including 27% who are following very closely), while 68% are closely following stories of US race issues (including 26% who are paying very close attention).

Black Britons are more interested still. Three quarters (76%) are closely checking news of UK race race issues, with half of this group (38%) saying they are following very closely. Almost identical numbers say the same of race news coming out of the US (76%, of which 40% very closely).

See the results for the general population here and for ethnic minority Britons here