Martin Luther King Jr. Wasn’t Always a Beloved Figure

From 1963 to 1966 Gallup asked Americans what they thought of Martin Luther King Jr. on a scale of -5 to +5. I’ve renormed this to a more common 0-10 scale:

By 1966, King’s average rating had fallen to 3.5. Even if you exclude the large number of stone racists who gave him a zero, he only scored a 5.4. He was not an especially popular figure.

In 2011, Gallup polled King again using their old scale. By then he was beloved, scoring 8.7 no matter how you count. Even the stone racists had given up. Practically no one rated him less than a 7.

It’s always easier to love someone when he’s no longer around to make trouble, isn’t it?


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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