Gallup Poll: Most Black Americans Favor Major Policing Changes, Retaining Law Enforcement Presence

August 13, 2020 by Reece Nations
The draft strategic plan for reforming the Grand Rapids Police Department was presented Tuesday, Aug. 11. Pictured is an officer inside department headquarters.

WASHINGTON – New data from the Gallup Center for Black Voices found 61% of Black Americans want the police presence to remain the same in their area.

From June 23 through July 6, a Gallup Panel survey asked participants whether they want law enforcement to spend more time, the same amount of time, or less time than they do currently in their local region. The survey was administered through the web and features large, proportionally weighted samples of Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans.

Black Americans were also more likely to see their local police, with 32% reporting that they see police frequently. The percentage of Black Americans who said they would like the police to spend more time in their area was nearly identical to the percentage who said they would like them to spend less time there, at 20% and 19% respectively.

Black Americans’ attitudes towards law enforcement presence track closely with the preferences of all U.S. adults surveyed. Sixty-seven percent of all surveyed adults said they prefer the same amount of police presence in their area, while 71% of White Americans surveyed said the same.

Although Black Americans’ viewpoints on police presence are similar to the majority of U.S. adults, their attitudes on how they expect to be treated by police are markedly different. Eighteen-percent of surveyed Black Americans felt “very confident” that the police in their area would treat them with “courtesy and respect”. 

Similarly, only 24% of Asian Americans surveyed said they were very confident police would treat them respectfully. Conversely, 40% of Hispanic Americans and 56% of White Americans surveyed echoed the same sentiment.

Previous reporting from Gallup indicated only 22% of Black Americans favor abolishing police departments, despite 71% stating they knew “some” or “a lot of” people who have been treated unfairly by law enforcement. More than 90% of Black Americans surveyed preferred targeted reforms intended to improve community relations with police and increasing law enforcement accountability.

However, a majority of Americans surveyed overall by Gallup indicated they favored “major changes” to improve policing, with 88% of Black Americans sharing this sentiment.

Black Americans were considerably more likely to come away with a negative impression of police interactions than White Americans, according to Gallup. Black Americans’ experiences with law enforcement mirror other reported Gallup data that found they are more likely than other demographics to experience “mistreatment in general life” and to support “major reform” of policing in America.

A majority of Americans surveyed indicated they favored “major changes” to improve policing, with 88% of Black Americans sharing this sentiment. Eighty-two percent of Asian Americans, 63% of Hispanic Americans and 51% of White Americans said major changes to policing were necessary.

“We’re making a 100-year commitment to report on the Black experience in America,” Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup, said in a statement. “We’re going to listen for 100 years, gathering stories and perspectives from Black Americans that can help bring about meaningful change in our society.”

Gallup’s Center on Black Voices is a research initiative committed to examining and underscoring the experiences of Black people in America, according to the organization’s webpage. Gallup documents and studies Black American experiences with justice, health and wellbeing, economic opportunity, jobs and work, education, community and environment.

Gallup findings conducted by the center are designed to help guide the decisions of policymakers regarding police and community relations. Studying these contrasts are intended to lead to evidence-based conclusions rather than choices dictated by personal perception.

“The Gallup Center on Black Voices will study and report on the nuanced and varying experience of Black citizens, their access to opportunity and a life well-lived,” Camille Lloyd, a senior consultant at Gallup and director of The Center on Black Voices, said in a statement. Our research will highlight and track the disparities of life outcomes and serve as a source of information on the state of racial equity in America.”

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