By David A. Love
Mildred and Richard Loving
Acceptance of interracial marriage is at an all-time high, with a vast majority of people accepting black-white marriages, according to a recent survey. But how much can we trust the numbers?
A USA Today/Gallup poll suggests that Americans are nearly unanimous in their support of unions between blacks and whites, with 86 percent approving of such marriages. In 1958 approval of marriages between whites and so-called "colored people" was at a mere 4 percent. That was during the days of Jim Crow, when so-called "miscegenation" laws to maintain racial purity still remained on the books in a number of Southern states.
It wasn't until 1967 that the U.S. Supreme Court deemed those laws unconstitutional in the Loving v. Virginia case. The case, which represents a defining moment of the civil rights era, is named for Mildred and Richard Loving, a black woman and a white man who were convicted of violating Virginia's law criminalizing their union. June 10 is known as Loving Day, to celebrate the day the nation's high court came down with its decision.
In 1983, 43 percent of people approved black-white marriages. Twenty years ago just under 50 percent basked them and a majority (64 percent) gave the nod to interracial marriage for the first time in 1997.
But a nearly 40 percent jump in acceptance in two decades is extraordinary, if the stats are to be believed.
Although a high majority of all demographics approve of interracial marriage in this study, the poll reveals differences in attitudes based on race, age, geography, education and political orientation.
Blacks always expressed greater approval than whites, and today 96 percent of blacks approve, according to the survey, as opposed to 84 percent of whites.
Millenials, those Americans in the 18 to 29 age group, are the most tolerant, with 97 percent approval. These high numbers mirror an earlier Pew study studying millennial attitudes on interracial friendships, dating and marriage.
Seniors in the Gallup poll were least tolerant with 66 percent approval. People living in the East (90 percent) and West (91 percent) were more likely than those living in the Midwest (86 percent) and South (79 percent).
The higher one's education, the likelier he or she will support blacks and whites getting hitched. Liberals and moderates are more accepting than conservatives (95, 90 and 78 percent, respectively) as Democrats (88 percent) and Independents (89 percent) are more accepting than Republicans (77 percent).
According to the pollsters, the results reflect both an across-the-board acceptance of an interracial jumping of the broom, as well as a younger generation replacing a dying-off, less tolerant older generation. And it is worth noting that people have had an opportunity to elect and experience the nation's first black president, Barack Obama. The president is the product of an interracial marriage -- a Kenyan father and a white mother.