Washington — Blacks are more likely than whites to commemorate Martin Luther King's birthday, an AP-Ipsos poll found. They're also more inclined to harbor doubts about progress toward his dream of racial equality.
Three-fourths of the people in this country say there has been significant progress toward equality, but only 66 percent of blacks felt that way.
Racial integration has swept across much of American life, and blacks have gained economic ground since the height of the civil rights movement. Two decades ago, the government established a federal holiday in honor of the slain civil rights leader.
On some measures such as annual income, blacks have closed the gap considerably with whites over the past few decades, census figures show. The progress for blacks may have stalled, however.
"People have opportunities, but things get in the way of those opportunities," said Latoya Williams, a black mother of four in Norfolk, Va. "The way the economy is now, you're working just to put a little food on the table. You just work, work, work yourself to death."
Just under a fourth of the population said they planned to commemorate King's birthday on Monday. A solid majority of blacks, 60 percent, said they would be involved.
Fewer than one in six whites, 15 percent, planned to commemorate the day, the poll found.
Sandy Smith, a white health care worker from Medford, Mass., said she likes to participate in services at work for King Day. "It honors somebody who contributed quite a bit to our culture," she said.
All 50 states gradually recognized a King holiday. But only one-third of businesses offer a paid holiday, according to the Bureau of National Affairs.
Participation in the holiday was enhanced by legislation passed in 1994 establishing the day as one of service.
In many places, people help with projects aimed to improve the community and help the needy. Supporters of the holiday try to discourage businesses from using it as a marketing gimmick.
"Martin Luther King would turn over in his grave if he thought he was recognized by a day of shopping and rest," said former Sen. Harris Wofford, D-Pa., who worked with Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., to establish the holiday as a day of service.
Three-fourths of those polled say King should be honored with a federal holiday. Blacks almost unanimously favored that, according to the poll of 1,242 adults that included an oversample of blacks.
The poll, taken Monday through Thursday, has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.