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Country's perception of inequality unchanged by Obama, poll shows

Having a black president hasn't led Americans to believe their country has moved closer to the ideal of racial equality preached by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., according to a new poll.

The AP-GfK poll found 77 percent of people interviewed say there has been significant progress toward King's dream, about the same percentage that felt that way in 2006, before Obama was elected. About 22 percent say they feel there has been "no significant progress" toward that dream.

On Monday, the nation will mark the 25th anniversary of the federal observance of King's birthday. The civil rights icon would have turned 82 today.

Since Obama won the 2008 election, critics have questioned the president's U.S. citizenship, mocked his Kenyan heritage, and criticized his stance on health care reform as socialist and costly. Some say Obama's efforts to unify Americans ring hollow in a nation that is palpably more partisan and divided since he became president two years ago.

"The exuberance and thrill of seeing an African-American elected to the presidency has been tempered by the outrageous claims that we've heard about him," said William Jelani Cobb, a history professor at Rutgers University.

Real concerns that King fought for remain, even with a black president, he said.

The poll reveals that more people plan to celebrate the federal holiday honoring King -- 30 percent, compared with 23 percent who had such plans five years ago. That includes 46 percent of non-whites, 38 percent of college graduates, 36 percent who live in urban areas and 36 percent who attend religious services at least weekly, according to the poll.

The new poll also shows most of the nation in support of the King holiday. Three-quarters of those surveyed this year say King's birthday should be so honored, with 84 percent of non-white respondents believing so, compared with 68 percent of white respondents.

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