For this NewsConference segment, NBC4's Conan Nolan talks with Fernando Guerra, the director for the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount, on his work studying race relations in the wake of the 1992 riots.
On the 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots, the portion of Angelenos who think another such event is likely has decreased, according to a new survey.
At the same time, residents feel safer and that racial groups are getting along better.
“You take these three trends, and they’ve all moved in a positive direction,” said Fernando Guerra, director of Loyola Marymount University’s Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles, which issued the study this week.
The study (PDF) is similar to others the center has completed every five years since the 1992 riots, with the most recent survey marking the fourth iteration.
The study showed that 44 percent of respondents said that even as they feel their city is safer and more racially harmonized, with riots less likely, they see Los Angeles as going in the wrong direction, Guerra said.
The data comes from a telephone survey of 1,605 residents that was conducted between Feb. 1and March 2. The survey queried an equal number of whites, blacks, Latinos and Koreans.
Guerra said the data shows what’s influencing Angelenos’ pessimism is actually the national economic picture.
“The No. 1 conclusion to me is that there’s been a de-linking – almost a de-racialization – of urban pessimism,” Guerra said. “Angelenos are a little bit more pessimistic than they were 10 years ago, but it’s … not caused by crime or race.”
That “de-linking” was not seen in the center's earlier studies of the city’s attitudes following the 1992 riots, he said.
Guerra noted that his study and other recent ones have shown that Angelenos are increasingly comfortable with residents of different racial backgrounds.
Downtown Los Angeles, which has seen strong residential growth in recent years, is about a quarter white, black, Latino and Asian, noted Guerra, who is also a professor of political science and Chicano studies at LMU.
“People are moving into neighborhoods that are multicultural. They're not hesitant about that,” he said.
In the results, 68 percent of all participants said Angelenos of different races and ethnicities get along very well or somewhat well. But when responses were broken down by race, there was a difference in perception, with 76 percent of white respondents saying race relations are good, compared to 65 percent of people of color.
Of all respondents, 41 percent said a riot was very or somewhat likely in the next five years. That figure, which Guerra said was still “not good,” was on a downward trend since coming in at 61 percent in 1997.