LMU - Photo courtesy of LMU.edu

Thirty years after the riots that devastated Los Angeles, residents’ fear that racial unrest could again boil over into violence has surged to its worst level in the past three decades, according to a Loyola Marymount University survey.

The survey, released Thursday by LMU’s Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles, found that roughly 68% of respondents said they found it very or somewhat likely that riots or other disturbances like those that occurred in 1992 will occur in the next five years.

That’s the highest percentage in the history of the survey, which has been conducted regularly since 1997 — five years after the 1992 unrest that left dozens of people dead, injured thousands more and caused millions of dollars in property damage. The unrest erupted following the acquittal of four white police officers over their involvement in the famed videotaped beating of Black motorist Rodney King.

In 1997, just five years after the riots, the LMU survey found that about 64% of residents felt more violence could erupt over racial strife in the area. That percentage steadily declined in ensuring surveys, until 2017, when the figure crept up to 58%.

Brianne Gilbert, managing director of the center and a senior lecturer in urban and environmental studies and political science, said researchers had hoped that the 2017 increase was an anomaly.

“But it wasn’t. Not even close,” Gilbert said in a statement. “Now a full 68% of residents in Los Angeles think something like what happened in 1992 could happen again.”

According to the survey, about 61% of respondents said they feel racial and ethnic groups in Los Angeles get along somewhat or very well, down from about 76% in 2017. Roughly 48% of respondents said they felt things in their city or area were generally going “in the right direction,” down from 59% last year.

Nearly 39% of respondents said they believe race relations in Los Angeles have gotten worse over the past four years, while 42% said things have stayed the same and 19% said they have improved.

“After years of surveys showing positive trends, in 2022 we see a clear and dramatic drop in how race relations are perceived in Los Angeles,” Fernando Guerra, director of the LMU center and a professor of Political Science and Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies, said in a statement. “Angelenos haven’t been this negative about racial tensions, or more likely to predict disturbances, since we began asking these questions in 1997.”

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