Optimism among black Americans about life is at a 20-year low and less than half of African-Americans believe things will improve in the United States in the future a poll showed Wednesday.

African-Americans are "less upbeat about the state of black progress now than at any time since 1983," the year the United States pulled out of a serious economic recession, said the Pew Research Center, which conducted the poll from September 5 to October 6.

Only one in five blacks said life in the United States was better for them than it was five years ago, and fewer than half -- 44 percent -- said they thought it would improve in the future, said the poll, which surveyed 3,086 adults, around one-third of them black.

A similar survey conducted in 1986 showed that more than half, or 57 percent, of blacks were optimistic about what the future had in store.

The following video is from ABCNews.com, broadcast on November 14, 2007.

Racial discrimination remains a daily issue for blacks, with two-thirds saying it affects them when they apply for a job or look for a home to rent, and half saying they feel it when they go to a restaurant or go shopping.

The study also showed that black Americans are "over-represented in virtually every aspect of the criminal justice system."

"In 2005, blacks were about twice as likely as whites to be a victim of a crime," the report said.

Despite making up only 12 percent of the population, blacks account for 40 percent of US prison inmates, the study showed, citing figures from the US 2Census Bureau.

Whites, meanwhile, make up two-thirds of the US population and only around one-third, or 36 percent, of prisoners.

(includes wire sources)